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.
Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali. Copyright © 2011 by Tutti a Tavola. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.