Quick and easy dishes like this were my staple when my daughters were still in school, and my husband had not yet retired. I was by myself on weekdays and laboring over my lunch was, well… Let’s just say that easy always sounded better.
Of course, easy may be a relative term here. It’s a fast and easy recipe IF the mussels had already been prepped. For those who are able to buy fresh mussels that had already been cleaned and debearded, congratulations. It should be a breeze cooking this lovely pasta dish. Otherwise, you have to prep them yourself.
Soak the mussels in water for an hour or two in the fridge. Then, rinse repeatedly, shaking the bowl vigorously, to force the mussels expel whatever silt or sand has been trapped in the folds of the flesh inside the shell. Then, pull off the beard. Having done all that, your mussels are ready to be cooked.
How long should mussels be cooked? Two to three minutes, or just until the shells open. Cook them longer and the mussel flesh will shrink and turn rubbery. To ensure that they stay perfectly tender and moist, do not overcook.
What if some mussels do not open after three minutes? Discard them. In fact, when you dump the mussels into hot water in a pan and you find that some of them float to the surface, those should be discarded too. It’s a freshness issue. Seafood spoils fast and you do not want to serve mussels that may no longer be safe to eat.
What wine is good for making the sauce? Dry white wine is the default for making sauces but I find that semi sweet wine is just as good although the flavor of the sauce will be a bit different. As to quality, any wine that you’d care to drink is good enough for cooking.
Cheesy spaghetti with fresh mussels
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain. Reserve one cup of the pasta water.
- Reheat the reserved pasta water and bring to the boil.
- Add the mussels to the boiling water. Pour in the white wine. Boil until the mussels open, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Scoop out the mussels and allow the liquid to continue boiling until reduced to half. You want a more concentrated mussel stock with the full bodied flavor of the wine so reduce, reduce, reduce.
- Meanwhile, open the mussel shells and discard the empty halves.
- To the reduced liquid in the pan, add the crumbled cheeses. Stir until melted.
- Turn off the heat. Season lightly with salt and generously with pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta and mussels. Toss to coat.