Well I’m officially “turkeyed out” until next year so it’s time to change it up here with a nice pot of mussels! Did you know that mussels are an inexpensive, sustainable shellfish that gives a boost to your immune system and your brain? Many people shy away from mussels thinking they taste fishy, to the contrary, if you buy them fresh from a good source they have a nice clean meaty flesh and smell just like the ocean plus they take on all the flavors that you use to cook with them.
Mussels are not just for special occasions like Christmas Eve, they can be a very quick dinner in the middle of the week or the weekend and it amazes me just how inexpensive they are, even at my Whole Foods when not on sale I can get them for 4.99 a pound and they’re even cleaned and debeard! Just make sure to grab a good bottle of wine while you’re there, sipping wine and eating mussels go hand and hand.
I normally make my mussels with a sauce that has lots of shaved garlic, white wine, red pepper, a few ladles of marinara or cherry tomatoes and that’s it, sometimes pasta on the side sometimes not. This time I made it with Fregola, the Italian version of Israeli couscous. Fregola comes from Sardinia, it’s a firmer semolina pasta shaped like little pearls that has a toasted and nutty flavor. This is rustic eating at it’s best, my favorite. Just put the pan in the middle of the table, have plenty of napkins, your wine close at hand, a separate bowl for your shells, and dig in! The juice of the mussels, the garlic, wine and tomatoes is what flavors the Fregola pasta, every bite is a delight!
A little crusty bread on the side for sopping up doesn’t hurt either!
- 2 lbs mussels, fresh, cleaned and debeard ( May substitute all clams or a mix of both)
- 5 cloves garlic, shaved ( shaving the garlic is a must!)
- 12 cherry tomatoes sliced, or a couple of ladles of homemade marinara
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup or so, white wine
- ⅓ cup of olive oil, extra for finish drizzle
- 1½ cup of pre-cooked Fregola, according to package. ( May substitute Israeli couscous)
- chopped parsley for garnish
- In a large pan with sides and lid combine olive oil, all the shaved garlic and red pepper flakes until golden on medium heat, then add tomatoes.
- Add mussels with the white wine, stir to get them coated then increase the heat to high and cover with a lid.
- Cook until all the mussels are open, about 5 minutes.
- Spoon in the pre-cooked Fregola, coating it with the sauce.
- Add chopped fresh parsley all over the top plus an extra drizzle of olive oil.
- Serve immediately.
- Discard any unopened shellfish!