I'm being a good wiffy so I made Mussels Marinara for The Lubricator last night. Actaully, it's a fast and easy dinner. The hardest part is cleaning the mussels.
Start a pot of salted water for your pasta. Linguini is great but I was out of linguini last night so I used fettuccini. Get your pot of salted water boiling but don't drop the pasta yet.
In large skillet with a tight lid or a medium kettle with secure lid, add a splash of good olive oil and gently sauté 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes for about a minute, being careful not to overcook the garlic. You just want it just transparent and when you smell it, it's done. I like to use about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes but I like the sauce on the spicy side. Add one large (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes. I prefer Progresso "Recipe Ready" with added puree and basil. Now add your herbs. I like about 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and one teaspoon dried basil. You can also use an Italian herb mix and if you have fresh herbs, by all means use them instead of dried, just add about twice as much more than you would if using dried.
Drop your pasta into your boiling water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes while you continue with the next step. Set a timer for the pasta and don't over cook. You can keep it warm for a few minutes while you finish the mussels if needed.
Continue to cook the sauce on medium low heat for about 5-8 minutes and then add about 1/3 cup white wine. If you don't have wine, you can add about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice instead but wine is better. The sauce will be thinner than spaghetti sauce. Stir and blend, bring to a slow bubble and now you are ready to add your cleaned and de-bearded mussels.
Turn up the heat and drop in the mussels. Don't mess with them, just cover the pot and make sure you don't overcook your pasta in the other pot. Have a sip of wine. Toss the salad. A pound of mussels will feed about four persons. You'll have a lot of mussels and not so much sauce which is good since you are going to cover the pot and sort of let the mussels steam open over the sauce. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how many mussels you have. Discard any mussels that do not open.
Plate the hot, drained pasta, gently scoop out portions mussels for each plate then pour the marinara sauce equally between all the plates. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread or focaccia and keep the salad chilled in the fridge until after you eat the mussels marinara. Eating the salad last will cleanse the palate. That's the way my Italian mother-in-law taught me and the salad really does taste better after the mussels!
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