Mussels with Pasta in Tomato Sauce

At the Farmer’s Market they sell beautiful locally raised mussels, which are grown on ropes out in the channel off the shore of Santa Barbara. In addition to being sustainable, this technique allows the mussels to be sand-free, and of course they are super fresh. I picked some up on Saturday along with some fresh cherry tomatoes.

While perusing the offerings, I also noticed a vendor selling fava beans. I do not recall ever having them, and I know I have never prepared fresh fava beans, so I bought some thinking I would add them to my pasta to make a kind of mussel pasta fagioli.

First I prepared the fava beans. I knew from watching cooking shows that this could be an arduous process and it was. First you open the pods, which are quite tough and pop out the seeds. Once done, you boil the seeds for a minute.

Fava beans before outer shell is removed

Then you remove the outer shell revealing the little fava bean inside. It took me about 30 minutes to complete. When I tasted a fava bean, it tasted good, but to me it was nothing to write home about. Kind of bland, like a cross between a pea and edamame. Not worth the effort in my opinion.

Finished shelled fava beans. A lot of work for a cup of beans!

I then proceeded on to make my pasta. I liked this recipe because everything is done in stages. This lends itself to producing a dish that you could serve to guests, where everything can be done ahead and then the pasta cooked at the last minute.

If you don’t have the luxury of farm-raised mussels. You should soak them in fresh water for 20 minutes to allow them to expel any sand they may have accumulated. Also note that you should strain the mussel cooking liquid through cheesecloth to remove any grit.

Here I am preparing the tomatoes

Mussels in with shallot, garlic and dry white wine
Strain mussel cooking liquid through multiple layers of cheesecloth to remove any grit
Tomatoes cooked with pepper flakes, garlic, and oil, with mussel cooking liquid added at the end
Everything being kept warm waiting for pasta to cook al dente
Toss it all together and you are done!

Here is the recipe:

Author: Jim Kirkley

Serves: 4

Pasta With Mussels in Tomato Sauce


1 handfull, cherry tomatoes, whole – stems removed
1 garlic clove – crushed
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 shallot – chopped
1/2 cup, dry white wine (plus more to drink)
1 pound, mussels – rinsed, scrubbed and beards removed
2 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon, red pepper flakes
1 pinch, sugar
Salt to taste
3/4 pound, linguine or other pasta
1/4 cup, chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. In a flat bottom bowl, with a potato masher, crush the larger cherry tomatoes into a coarse puree. With your fingers squish the smaller tomatoes. Bring large pot of water to boil for pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, in a wide skillet or saucepan with lid, combine 1 crushed garlic clove and shallot with white wine. Bring to a boil and add mussels. Cover and cook, shaking pan from time to time, 2 to 4 minutes, or until mussels open up. Check mussels after 2 minutes; transfer open mussels to a bowl using tongs. Cover pan again, wait another minute, and repeat until all mussels have opened. Discard any un-opened mussels.
  3. Leave mussels to cool in bowl until easily removed from shells. Remove half from shells and leave other half intact. Taste a mussel; if it is sandy, give them all a very quick rinse and drain in a colander. Transfer to a bowl and keep covered while you make tomato sauce.
  4. Place a strainer over another bowl, line with cheesecloth and strain the liquid in the pan into bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup. Rinse and dry pan.
  5. Heat olive oil over medium heat in pan and add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes and sugar.
  6. Turn heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring often, 5 to 10 minutes, until tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add 1/2 cup broth from mussels, stir together and bring to a simmer. Taste and add salt as needed. Tip all mussels, shelled and unshelled, into sauce, cover and turn heat to very low or remove from heat if not serving right away. Keep warm while you cook pasta.
  7. Warm a large bowl for the pasta. When water for pasta comes to a rolling boil, salt generously and add pasta. Cook al dente, following the directions on the package. Drain and toss in the warm bowl with tomato sauce, mussels and parsley. Serve right away.

Soak mussels for 20 minutes in clear fresh water. This allows them to expell any sand they may have accumulated. Remove beards and scrub clean with a brush.


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