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spaghetti with mussels
Spaghetti with Mussels
Originated from: Termoli, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Christmas Eve
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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For the spaghetti

A large pot of water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound spaghetti

For the sauce

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot chillies (optional)


To pre-cook the mussels

1. Scrub and clean the mussels. Let them run under cold running water.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

3. Cook the mussels for about 5 minutes.

4. Drain. Discard any mussels that don't open.

5. Cool.

To make the tomato sauce

1. Heat oil.

2. Add chopped onion and garlic. Fry till golden.

3. Add the tomatoes.

5. Season with salt, pepper, hot chillies and 1 tablespoon parsley, reserving 2 tablespoons of parsley for garnishing.

6. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

7. Add pre-cooked mussels.

8. Cook the tomato sauce with mussels in it for 20 minutes or so.

To cook the spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Add a tablespoon of salt.

3. Add the spaghetti and cook until ready (about 10 minutes, depending on the brand).

4. Drain.

To toss the spaghetti

1. Place the drained spaghetti in a large bowl.

2. Add about a cup of tomato sauce and toss well.

3. Place the spaghetti in individual bowls. Top with extra sauce. Arrange mussels nicely on the pasta plate. Garnish with parsley.

4. Serve warm.


Generally speaking, most North American cooks prefer using clams to mussels with pasta. "Spaghetti alle Vongale," spaghetti with clams, is possibly one of the most popular Italian dishes on this continent. However, mussels can easily be substituted. Apparently, prior to World War II, this style of dish would have been prepared on Christmas Eve. Well, it would have been prepared in towns along the coastline. In the interior the cost of sea food would have been far too expensive for most households. N.B. Some cooks don't pre-cook the mussels -- they simply add them directly into the tomato sauce. This may add more flavor to the sauce, but one risks getting sand hidden in the mussels into the sauce.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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