Mussels are a real crowd pleaser and they are inexpensive too. During a market basket food competition, I made a mussel soup with fresh tomato and basil. A market basket competition is much like “Iron Chef”. Surprise ingredients are given to the chefs for them to fashion into a winning dish. Several competitors wanted to know how I made “that great broth”. I told them that I didn’t make the broth, the mussels did.
Here, I demonstrate the same techniques used for that broth. The mussels are steamed in a bit of white wine and tomatoes are added. Instead of the fresh tomatoes in the market basket, marinara sauce is used; a version taught to me by a woman from Naples, Italy. Once the mussels open up, giving up their “little secret,” they should be pulled out immediately. The marinara combines with the wine and mussel broth. Finish the pasta in the sauce just created, and serve with the mussels.
To retain the character of fresh tomatoes, D.O.P. certified San Marzano tomatoes are used. D.O.P, (Protected Designation of Origin) is an EU (European Union) certification program which ensures the products are from the region stated. Certified San Marzano tomatoes are from the Agro Sarnese Nocerino region known for its fruitful soil near Mt. Vesuvius. Not only does the D.O.P designation ensure the tomatoes are from that region but that they were picked ripe and produced in a way that maintains their quality. These tomatoes are better than many fresh ones.
serves 4-6 people
- 1 ½ Tbsp garlic
- 2 Tbsp minced onion
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine (i.e. chardonnay)
- 5 lbs mussels (in shell)
- 1 lb linguine
Start a pot of water to boil for the linguine and cook according to directions. Heat a braising pot or stock pot over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the oil and the garlic. Sauté until the garlic has the lightest of color, then add the onion and sauté briefly. Add the mussels and the wine and quickly cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Steam the mussels until they open. Youwill hear the shells popping open. After they have opened, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon or thongs. Then add 2 cups of marinara sauce (see recipe below) and bring to temperature.
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 Tbsp Kosher or sea salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 28 0z can D.O.P certified San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes in pureé
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Heat your sauce pot over medium heat. Add the oil and the garlic. Sauté the garlic until the edges turn golden brown; then remove the garlic from the pot. Add the tomatoes to the oil, roughly mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or with your hand as you pour them in. Add the salt and the black pepper. Bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Purée the sauce with a hand blender or immersion blender either before or after you add the herbs, depending on whether you want the herbs visible. Heat for 30 seconds after adding the herbs.