The beautiful thing about food is that we associate it so much with our memories, that just a single bite has the ability to transport you to a completely different place or time. Making a dish that we once enjoyed on a vacation or during a family holiday can bring back those fond memories and give us a quick “getaway” in the midst of a hectic work week.
When I think back to my time in Italy, what I remember most was sitting on the coast of Sicily eating some of the freshest mussels the world has to offer. In Italy, I had the “cozze” or mussels prepared a variety of ways, from a buttery garlic sauce to a fresh tomato broth. Italians prepare mussels in such a lavish and abundant style, and anytime I ordered them abroad they were alway served fresh in a gigantic black “cauldron” that spans the entirety of the table. Everyone digs in with freshly baked bread to sop up the delicious broth, and as you sit back in a food coma, you can’t believe that that wasn’t your meal but only the appetizer.
Once I got back to the states, it was hard to come by fresh mussels. A lot of the mussel offerings are frozen, which is fine, but I wanted to buy those that don’t have pre-made sauce packets with tons of sodium. I longed for the rich yet light broth I tasted in Italy, and so I set out to make my own Cozze.
So after much research, combining multiple recipes, and several taste tests, I found a delectable way to prepare your mussels that will make you feel like you are dining in a small coastal Italian city without a care in the world other than how many more mussels you will be able to eat in one sitting.
Rustic Mussels in a Light Tomato Broth
by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013
- 1 pound of fresh mussels (make sure they are all closed, and if any are wide open they are bad and should be discarded. If you find partially open ones, tap them to see if they close. If they do, you can cook them)
- Several cloves of garlic
- One onion, chopped
- Fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Several pours of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes OR 3 chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1 cup of white wine (Chardonnay or the like, and cook only with wine you would drink! High quality wine makes for a high quality meal)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Sourdough Bread
1. Clean the mussels. Make sure that all beards are removed, and rinse well.
2. In a large pot or deep skillet, sauté butter, olive oil, finely chopped garlic, and onion until fragrant
3. Add tomatoes, parsley, and wine and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. You may want to add a bit more wine or a dash of water depending on if you like your broth to be more liquified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Try to contain yourself from dipping bread into this delicious broth before your dinner is complete. Trust me, I had to control myself several times because your kitchen is going to smell divine.
5. Meanwhile, toast slices of sourdough bread (in the oven or toaster). I particularly like to butter both sides of the sourdough and toast it quickly on the stove top in a skillet. It makes for a beautiful golden brown toast, and it’s a fantastic companion to the broth.
6. Add the mussels to the broth and immediately cover the pot. Let steam for 5-7 minutes or until all the shells open up.
7. Immediately serve the mussels in broth in small bowls and top with more fresh Italian parsley. Place one generously sized slice of bread in each bowl and enjoy!
Now remember, you can serve this as is, or mix it in with a pasta of your choice (preferably a linguine). The key to this recipe is to give the broth the time it needs to simmer on a low heat so all of the flavors can mix together. This gives the broth depth and will make for a much tastier end result.
Also, you can leave out the tomatoes and ramp up the garlic in the recipe and make a garlic based broth instead which you can serve with a few slices of lemon to compliment the flavor.
Pair your mussels with a nice glass of wine (the same wine you just used for the broth, since it’s open why not!) and enjoy.
Eat with all of your heart,