The Mediterranean is rich in mussels, in particular in the rocky coastal regions. They are also abundant in the coastal regions of the United States. Cozze, or mussels, are a very popular dish in Italy, especially around Naples. It seems that just about every Italian American restaurant has some rendition of a mussels dish: alla Posillipo (spicy tomato sauce), alla marinara (mild fresh tomato sauce), and so on. Well, here is a spicy one. Mussels are not an expensive seafood and deliver a lot of flavor if fresh and still briny from the sea. Otherwise, save your San Marzano for another dish.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, sliced
- 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
- 3 pounds mussels, soaked and scrubbed clean
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
1. Heat 5 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic, and cook until the garlic sizzles and turns just golden around the edges, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, slosh out the can with 1/4 cup hot water, and add that to the pot. Season with the oregano, salt, and peperoncino. Bring to a boil, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
2. Once the sauce has thickened, add the mussels, stir, and adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cover, and simmer until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.
3. Once the mussels have opened, (discard any that have not), stir in the basil, and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl, and pour juices over. Serve immediately.
Note: Instead of the canned tomatoes, you can use 2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved.