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Mussels Italian Style

Mussels can be prepared in a wide variety of ways, but the two most common preparations with a cream-based white wine sauce or a tomato-based red sauce. Here’s how to make the latter. It begins in the market. Pay attention to the size of the mussel meats. If they’re very small they’re disappointing to eat. Ask before buying. Also, beware of bags of mussels with more than one or two open shells. Those are dead and must be thrown away. Mussels are inexpensive, so don’t hesitate to buy a lot of them per person. To make up for all this trouble, most mussels that penetrate the New Orleans market now have been cleaned before packing, so you don’t have to fight with the “beard” before you start cooking.

Mussels Italian style

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 28-oz. cans of whole Italian tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 80 mussels in shells, scrubbed and debearded if not already cleaned.

1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add onion and garlic and cook until they brown at the edges.

2. Add the red wine. As soon as it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes and their juice, lemon, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

3. Check the mussels to make sure all are tightly closed. Add them to the pan, cover and cook over medium-high heat about ten minutes, or until all the mussels open. Agitate the pan to slosh some of the sauce inside the shells. Serve mussels and sauce in large bowls with soup spoons, oyster forks, and toasted Italian bread (or garlic bread!) on the side.

Serves four appetizers or two entrees.

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