This is a great recipe for Mussels Marinara that is fairly easy to make and delicious over spaghetti or angel hair pasta. The mussels are cooked in a garlic and tomato and wine sauce and seasoned with black and red pepper for a little bit of heat. Also great to eat alone, or with a side of Bruschetta (sliced Italian bread toasts with olive oil and sea salt) for dipping in the sauce.

To prepare the mussels for cooking, sort through them and throw out any that are open or don’t close when tapped. Be sure to rinse and swirl mussels in a basin of cold water to rinse out any dirt or debris trapped inside them, but don’t let them soak too long or you’ll lose the natural sea flavor. With a brush, scrub the outsides well under running water, and pry off any barnacles with the back of a knife. Twist or cut off any beards or hair-like tufts and rinse again, keeping the mussels cold until ready to use.

Mussels Marinara (Cozze Alla Marinara) Recipe
Serves 6. 

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of peeled tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
Pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 lbs fresh mussels
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Cooked pasta or bruschetta, for serving

In a large saucepan or pasta pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and tomatoes. With a wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes lose their rawness, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and season with saffron, salt and pepper. Add the red pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste depending on desired heat (if using). Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and cook until they open, 3 to 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve over pasta or with a side of Bruschetta for dipping in the sauce.

Recipe adapted from The Institute of Culinary Education, Techniques of Italian Cooking

—Kristen Hess, Author of