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Fettuccine with Mussels in White Wine Sauce

March 13, 2012

“Lemon is the new salt.” — Teresa (my wife)

These recipes are to greater or lesser degrees works in progress. I have started measuring what goes in, on the advice of my better half. This recipe is a new one. I’m not entirely certain of the amount of liquid required for the amount and consistently of sauce I’ve enjoyed in some of my favourite Italian restaurants. Much of the liquid is added at the end, so you can finesse it as you like. You won’t go too far wrong using the amounts here. The sauce will thicken as it sits and cools with the pasta. I think I may have enjoyed seconds more than the first plate for that reason, even though the dish was mostly cold by then.

If you’re going through my recipes, you might wonder how many people each will serve. Well, there’s not a single answer to that. It tends to be two people. It can be a challenge to make mussels for bigger groups of people, at least with my cookware. A single serving for one tends to be 1 or 1-1/2 lbs as something approaching a main course, depending on what else you may be serving. I find it’s difficult to make more than about 3 lbs. of mussels at a time, because they won’t cook properly if you put too many in the pan. I do have a large propane cooker for outdoors where I can fit more in. In the meantime, I’ll offer tips for larger groups as I think of them. Often you can prep much of the sauce beforehand all at once, and then do a few quick pans of mussels to go around.

This particular dish could probably serve 3 or 4 if you served a salad course and maybe some nice bread. Or it might just serve two if they keep eating. 😉

Fettuccine with Mussels in White Wine Sauce

250 g (half a package) dried fettuccine
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs mussels
several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed, stems preserved
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup + 3 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp capers
3/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup grated parmesan
splash of fresh lemon juice
fresh-ground pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add vegetable or canola oil to prevent pasta sticking together, add dried pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.

2. Rinse the mussels and trim any beards. Discard any that are stuck open, and won’t close when you tap them on the counter or put them under running water. In a large saute pan, bring 1/4 cup wine, bay leaf and thyme stems to a simmer. Add mussels, cover, and steam, shaking them around so they cook evenly, until all the mussels have opened, will only take a few minutes. Strain the mussels, making sure to reserve some of the liquid. Once they’ve cooled, remove and discard about half the mussel shells.

3. Warm a large pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and thyme leaves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute. Add 2 tbsp wine together with 2 tbsp of the reserved mussel liquid and simmer for a couple minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers and stir. Add the cooked pasta, stir, then it’s time to make a call on the amount of extra liquid necessary. I would certainly add another tbsp or two of olive oil at this point, and another tbsp each of wine and mussel broth.  Add the parmesan and stir. Add the mussels and stir over heat for a minute or two, until it’s warmed through. Careful not to crush the shelled mussels as you do so. Plate, adding the splash of lemon juice and some fresh ground pepper.

TIP: Seeding a tomato can be quite easy if you first cut it into slices about 1/2-inch thick. Then just push the seeds and pulp out with your fingers.

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