In high school when I was first learning to make paella but had no one to guide me, I decided I would cook the rice in mussel broth. I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing when some cousins arrived unexpectedly, and I served the rice dish to them.
It wasn’t even a proper paella. No tomatoes, no saffron… It was a pale white rice dish and I was already half-expecting that no one would like it because it was, well, for a lack of a better word — different. I was also expecting to get a scolding from my mother for wasting food. When lo and behold! Nothing was left from the pan of sickly looking rice and seafood dish, and all I got were compliments.
I learned two very important cooking lessons that day. First, cooking carbs in mussel broth is genius. Second, there are times when being bold and brave pays off.
So, applying that lesson to this pasta dish… I boiled water with salt and dropped in debearded mussels. I waited until the water was boiling and the mussels were partially open before scooping them out. Into the boiling broth, I slid in the pasta. The rest of the procedure is in the recipe below.
Fettucine aglio e olio with mussels
- 80 to 90 grams fettuccine - or whatever pasta shape you prefer
- 8 cups mussel broth
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 generous pinch chili flakes
- 1 small handful chopped fresh parsley
- salt - to taste
- pepper - to taste
- cooked mussels - empty half shell discarded for convenience
- Cook the pasta as you normally would but in boiling mussel broth instead of water. How much salt you need to add depends on how well-seasoned the broth is.
- When the pasta is halfway done, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and chili flakes and cook over medium heat until the garlic bits are lightly browned.
- Drain the pasta and add to the oil and garlic.
- Pour in a couple of tablespoonfuls of the mussel broth.
- Add the mussels on the half shell. Toss.
- Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed.
- Once the mussels are heated through, turn off the heat.
- Add the parsley and toss until well distributed.