This combination of mussels with plenty of garlic, parsley, saffron and white wine was inspired by the Venetian soup zuppa de peoci, which is usually ladled over sliced crusty bread. Here we serve it over pasta. For a more elegant presentation you can remove the mussels from their shells before serving…but then again, who wants to be elegant? Enjoy!
8 ounces whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
Big pinch of saffron threads (see Note), soaked in 2 tablespoons water or white wine
2 pounds mussels, cleaned (See Tips)
3/4 cup dry white wine
Big pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (see Tips)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it just begins to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add crushed tomatoes and saffron with soaking liquid (the mixture may splatter) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring mussels and wine to a boil in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the mussels open, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. (Discard any unopened mussels.)
Strain the mussel broth through a fine-mesh sieve into the tomato sauce. Stir in crushed red pepper and simmer over medium heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle about half the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among 4 pasta bowls, top with mussels and spoon the remaining sauce over the mussels. Serve topped with parsley and lemon zest.
Recipe Tips & Notes:
Note: The dried stigma from Crocus sativus, saffron adds flavor and golden color to a variety of Middle Eastern, African and European foods. Soak it in a little water, wine or broth for about 30 minutes before adding to a dish to help release its delicious flavor. Find it in the spice section of supermarkets, gourmet shops or at tienda.com. It will keep in an airtight container for several years.
Tips: To clean mussels, rinse very well under cold running water and use a stiff brush to remove any barnacles or grit from the shell. Discard any mussels with broken shells or any whose shells remain open after you tap them lightly. Pull off any fibrous “beard” that might be pinched between the shells; the “beards” of most cultivated mussels are already removed.
A microplane grater is a great kitchen gadget that seems to be tailor-made for grating citrus zest. It was originally designed to function as a woodworking tool (called a carpenter’s rasp). Its razor-sharp edges shave off the zest effortlessly and make it easier to leave the bitter white pith on the fruit. It’s the right tool when you want fluffy, very fine citrus zest. Traditional kitchen graters can be used for zesting citrus, too, but they have a tendency to rip and shred the zest, giving a somewhat more clumpy, wet result.
Per serving: 471 calories; 17 g fat (3 g sat, 11 g mono); 24 mg cholesterol; 56 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 20 g protein; 9 g fiber; 452 mg sodium; 610 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: Iron (39% daily value), Vitamin C (38% dv), Magnesium (31% dv), Vitamin A (24% dv), Folate (21% dv), Zinc (20% dv), Potassium (17% dv).