I love seafood. I love it most when it’s done right and still affordable. And that sometimes means that you are going to get the most bang for your buck if you do it at home. Mussels are one of those seafood treats that only look expansive and fancy. In reality they are one of the cheapest, freshest options in your local seafood case. So skip the shrimp, oyster and lobster and head straight for the mussels. Mussels are endlessly versatile, most often you seem them in a white wine sauce. They can also be done with bacon and smoked gouda which Lloyd lloves!. But today I went with a yummy, spicy, tomato based Fra Diavolo sauce.
If you haven’t cleaned your own mussels at home and are wary of making yourself sick never fear! I am here for you! Check out my guide on How to Prep Mussels at Home. Once you have your mussels prepped let them sit in a bowl cold of water until you are ready for them. I like to wipe down all my surface after cleaning the mussels before pulling out my meat and veg for the next part of this meal. So having them tucked neatly away works best for me. But I am sure that for the sake of saving time that you could clean these babies while your sausage cooks.
I use turkey sausage because it’s healthier, less heavy and easier to cook with since you get to skin the “drain the pan” step. I remove the casings from these pretties and pop them straight into the dutch oven I’ll be serving from.
While these guys are cooking I get a pot of water ready to boil my pasta in. This usually takes about fifteen minutes and by that time the rest of your sauce should be ready so the timing usually works out pretty well. Make sure you liberally salt your water. This is where your pasta is going to get it’s flavor.
While your sausage is cooking and your water is starting to heat chop up some shallots and green onions and add these to the pan with your sausage.
Now it’s time to add in your crushed tomatoes. Only, I didn’t have crushed tomatoes. I thought I did but it turned out to be diced tomatoes. So I poured them into a tall cup and used my immersion blender to make them crushed. I also added in my spices and wine so that it was really easy to add to the pan once I was ready for that step.
Wait for your sauce to naturally thicken as the wine cooks off, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce was ready I dropped my pasta in the boiling water to get the cooking process started but I pulled them out about six minutes early so that the could finish cooking with the mussels in my sausage Fra Diavolo sauce. I used whole wheat pasta because it takes longer to cook, has a richer taste and holds up better when you cook it in a sauce like this.
As soon as the pasta goes in it is finally time to add your mussels! Drain the cold water off and add them to your sauce. Mix everything together and put the lid on. You want a nice tight fitting or heavy lid so that no steam escapes and your mussels get cooked fully.
Leave that lid on for five minutes. Do. Not. Peak. While your mussels are cooking you can do some last minute prep work. Put your bowls in the microwave so that they are nice and warm and grate some fresh garlic and chop up some basil. You want to add these straight into the pan as soon as you pull the lid off and give everything one last good stir so that they cook and release their flavors evenly.
When you pull that lid off and the cloud of steam dissipates you should see the welcome site of all these gorgeous open mussels.
When you serve it I suggest a dusting of shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped basil leaves. It makes things more colorful and that fresh basil taste really offsets the spiciness and richness of the sauce.
Note on mussels serving size: The bulk of the weight when you buy mussels is the shells. Usually for a main I aim for about a half lb of mussels per person when I’m mixing them into something hearty like this. If I was just doing mussels in a wine sauce with bread or frites I would shoot for closer to a pound a person. But if I was serving them as an appetizer I would only want a quarter pound per person.
- 1 lb fresh mussels
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 large shallot chopped
- 3-4 scallion bulb ends diced
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp crushed red peppers (or to taste)
- 8 oz uncooked whole wheat pasta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 grated garlic cloves
- 10-15 chopped basil leaves (reserve some for garnish)
- Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Clean and prep mussels.
- Start well-salted water to boiling.
- Remove casings and cook sausage in heavy bottomed pan with a tight or heavy lid.
- Chop onions big and add to pot.
- Once onions are translucent add in crushed tomatoes, wine, crushed red peppers, salt and pepper and simmer until wine is cooked off.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes less than suggested time.
- Transfer half cooked pasta and mussels into pot, stir well and cover with lid. Do not touch for 5 minutes.
- Grate garlic, shop basil, heat serving bowls.
- Open lid and add in garlic and most of the basil leaves, stir well.
- Serve in heated bowls with a sprinkling of cheese and reserved chopped basil leaves.