Mussels with Marinara Sauce
I think when most people envision Paris, they imagine cobblestone streets, cute sidewalk cafes, a French garçon warmly encouraging them in with an enthusiastic “Bonjour!” There may be a little background music played on an accordion, a bicyclist riding past them with a beret. At least that’s how I always imagined Paris.
When I traveled to Paris for the first time, I was shocked to find that it was exactly as I had imagined (except maybe not so many men with berets). While this type of scenario exists in most parts of Paris, I found it especially true in the Place du Tertre in Montmarte, right next to the Sacre Coeur church.
You’ll find something that looks like it’s straight out of a postcard. The area is home to musicians, artists, and creative types. The square, though small, is also not short on quintessential Parisian cafes. Many of these cafes are packed with hungry locals and tourists alike, and feature more than just your typical steak frites (steak and fries) or confit de canard (duck); fresh mussels are a speciality in the area.
Mussels are not a rarity elsewhere in Paris, but they seem to particularly be a star in the Montmartre area. They’re often served in a white wine broth, sometimes made with a simple garlic infused mixture, other times with flavorful marinara.
For a long time, I imagined mussels to be a laborious task. The reality is that they’re actually one of the easiest foods to whip up, especially if you use a delectable pre-made marinara sauce like this Mezzetta Tomato and Sweet Basil sauce.
Now, you guys know that I usually make my own marinara sauce because I’m all about using all natural foods. These days, a lot of companies will claim they’ve got some “all natural” product, but the product is usually anything but. In this case, I accepted Mezzetta’s offer to try their #FallforFlavor selection of Napa Valley marinara sauces after looking at the label and finding that the sauces are actually all natural.
Read the label and you’ll find normal ingredients that are in no shape or form foreign-sounding or incomprehensible. They’re also made without any added sugar or paste, which is really important to me. Having a sauce like this to turn to when I’m short on time and/or energy is a big perk for me because I don’t always have the capability to make marinara from scratch.
Mussels with a marinara sauce like this are such a convenient entertaining option. There are days where I know I’ll be working later than usual, but for the sake of winding down at the end of the night and maintaining my social life, I invite family and friends over regardless of my long work day.
Because I know I’ll be tired and short on time, I rely on quick and easy recipes like this. A bottle of wine, a big bowl of mussels in marinara, and my balcony view always have my friends responding to invites like this with a resounding yes.
If you’ve made mussels before, you might not think of it as a quick and easy meal because of the initial cleaning that needs to be done with fresh mussels. But there’s a really helpful workaround to this, which is to add a heaping spoonful of flour to a bowl of cold water and let the mussels soak in the bowl. The mussels feed on the flour and release their sand and grit. In addition, the mussels become more plump and juicy; win-win!
While they soak, you simply sauté some onion and garlic in a little bit of butter and olive oil until translucent. Add some white wine (maybe drink some too), and cook until the wine is reduced. Then it’s just time to add the full-flavored Tomato and Sweet Basil sauce to the pan. The mussels will cook in this sauce while simultaneously opening up their shells – an approximate 10 minute reveal.
The marinara sauce that the mussels are cooked in is appetizingly sweet, but in that refined way that only properly harvested tomatoes can do. The flavor of garlic is pronounced, especially with the garlic bread that is served on the side; they’re a welcome source of heat in the dish to complement the sweet sauce and the ethereal taste of the black mussels.
The mussels are plump, soft, and slightly chewy; they’ve got that naturally brined flavor just from their sheer existence in sea water and being so fresh. The natural brine with the pinch of salt and spices in the marinara sauce provide the dish its savory notes, which are all too addictive. The parsley on top and the chilled chardonnay served on the side are the vibrant finishing touches to complete this truly effervescent meal.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 3/4 a jar of marinara sauce
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb live black mussels
- 1 tbsp flour, for mussels
- 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
for the garlic bread
- olive oil to drizzle
- 1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
- 1 garlic clove, to rub onto bread
- Melt butter with oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the red pepper flakes.
- Meanwhile, dump the mussels into a large bowl of cold water with the flour; set aside.
- Pour just enough white wine to barely immerse the onions and garlic in the pan - about 1/3 c of white wine. Cook until reduced greatly; about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Once there’s less than a tablespoon of wine left in the pan, add the marinara sauce. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Drain and rinse the mussels before adding them in. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the mussel shells open up.
- Meanwhile, toasted your baguette slices and drizzle with olive oil. Cut a smidgen off from the garlic clove to create a flat edge. Rub the flat side of the garlic clove against the baguette slices.
- Serve the mussels straight from the pan or pour with sauce into a serving dish. Any mussels that didn’t open should be tossed (don’t try prying them open!). Garnish with parsley and garlic bread.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 291