Spaghetti alle cozze (mussels)
My recipe featured in the Waitrose Weekend magazine;
It’s autumn, there’s an ‘R’ in the month - now is the time to eat shellfish. Mussels are in season, they’re abundant, so delicious and best of all they are cheap. A fresh net, 1kg, is about £3.80 and will feed 2 adults and 2 children easily.
I LOVE mussels. And I love that you can only buy fresh mussels during autumn and winter. It makes this dish worth waiting for. The spaghetti is cooked in the mussel liquor which creates an even more intense flavour to this classic Italian pasta dish.
They are in most supermarkets; I've found them in Waitrose, Morrisons and Tesco, otherwise fishmongers will definitely be selling them during the cold months.
Miraculous ingredients: Fresh mussels, white wine, Santini baby plum tomatoes (M&S sells this variety), good quality spaghetti (Giuseppe Cocco is excellent)
Spaghetti alle cozze (mussels)
A net of fresh mussels aprox. 1kg (in season from mid September to April)
½ glass of white wine (the same quality that you would drink!)
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
150g Santini baby plum tomatoes cut in half
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ fresh red birds eye chilli, finely chopped or ¼ teaspoon of dry red chilli flakes
15g fresh parsley, finely chopped
350g spaghetti (Giuseppe Cocco is very good)
Remove the little beards from each mussel by pulling hard, wash the mussels under cold running water and place in a large sauce pan. Pour in the white wine and put the lid on. Place the sauce pan on a medium heat and cook for approximately 5 minutes. During the cooking time turn the mussels with a wooden spoon, so the mussels at the top of the pan move to the bottom and are in contact with the heat.
The mussels will be done when all the shells are fully open and the mussel meat has come away from the sides of the shell to form plump little ovals.
Lift the mussels out of the pan with a slotted spoon into a bowl and leave to one side to cool. Pour the mussel liquor from the sauce pan into measuring jug and leave to one side to settle. This step is important. Any 'grit' from the mussels will float to the bottom of the jug so when you use the liquor to finish cooking the pasta you can make sure the 'grit' doesn't end you in your final dish.
When the mussels are cool, pull the mussel meat out of each shell and place in another bowl. If the mussels are very large, snip them in two with a pair of kitchen scissors to make bite size pieces.
Place a large pan that can hold a good 3 litres of water onto a high heat. When the water starts to boil add a teaspoon of salt and all the spaghetti. Set the timer to cook the spaghetti for only ¾ of its cooking time (6 mins instead of 9 mins for the brand I use). The spaghetti will finish cooking in the reserved mussel liquor to give it even more flavour.
Put a large frying pan on a low heat to warm. Add all the extra virgin olive oil to the pan and fry the minced garlic and chilli for about 20 seconds. Add the halved baby plum tomatoes and stir. Increase the heat to high to start breaking down the tomatoes and release their juices. Stir and press down on the tomatoes with a wooden spatula to hurry the cooking along. Add the chopped parsley, stir and cook for another couple of minutes.
When the timer for the spaghetti goes off after ¾ of the cooking time has elapsed, add all the spaghetti to the large frying pan of tomatoes, garlic and parsley and carefully pour in the mussel liquor without adding the sediment from the bottom – the liquor should just cover all the spaghetti. If there is not enough mussel liquor, add some of the pasta water. Stir everything together.
Place the lid on the frying pan, turn the heat down to low and carry on cooking for another few minutes until the spaghetti is al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle). When the pasta is al dente, turn the heat off, add all the mussels, stir thoroughly and serve.
Preparation time 15 minutes, cooking 15 minutes, serves 4