Mussels are eaten weekly in my home
Not only are mussels an affordable and sustainable seafood option, but they are also a nutritional powerhouse with an impressive quantity of iron, protein, vitamin C, B12, Omega 3 fatty acids and more in a compact size.
Growing up they were one of the few seafood options my mother could afford for us on a regular basis so mussels featured heavily in our diet even then.
The sweetness of mussels pairs perfectly with the salty smokiness of bacon, and the bright acidity of tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and red wine.
I believe I have gotten quite good at preparing them as a result. Mussels are a very quick seafood meal that comes together in minutes with just a few simple ingredients. However, I’m going to share with you a slightly more complicated recipe here that is my favourite way to prepare mussels.
The good thing is that the sauce we will prepare for the mussels can be made in a larger batch either freezing for later use or refrigerated for use in other recipes the same week.
This is my favourite recipe for mussels. And the versatile extra sauce you end up with will be used for many other dishes.
The shells can also be saved and crushed after eating to use in your garden for a calcium and assorted mineral boost for the soil.
Prepare the sauce first
Allow the bacon fat time to slowly render out and the onions or shallots to caramelize. This sauce improves in flavour with standing. You can even make it ahead of time a couple of days if you wish.
Prepare the mussels
Mussels do not need much. If they have not been debearded by your fishmonger, remove the scraggly bits clinging to them. Rinse them in cold water, and discard any that remain open after pressing on or tapping the shell.
Fresh live mussels that will not close are dead. However, it is a myth that cooked mussels that did not open are dead. Unopened, cooked mussels are safe to consume — if you can pry them open. They may actually be the freshest and strongest of your batch.
Do not overcook the mussels
Bring the sauce back to a strong simmer, then add the mussels. When the sauce comes back up a simmer/boil, cover and cook until they open and are a nice plump pink colour. This should take approximately 5-8 minutes depending on how many mussels are in the pot. Consume them immediately. Overcooked mussels shrink and lose some of their delicate sweetness.
Use the sauce in other recipes
My recipe is for a larger batch of sauce. You can use this savoury and rich sauce in many ways, here are just a few ideas:
- In your shakshuka base.
- Simmer some onions, celery, carrots in a stock pot. Add a cup or two of the sauce. Add bone broth, bring to a simmer, and then add a few handfuls of greens like ramp leaves, kale, cabbage etc. for a fast soup. Korean Kimchi goes well in a soup like this.
- On top of eggs.
- On top of greens. Bitters like sautéed broccolini or braised endive are just a couple of examples.
Serve the mussels immediately after cooking garnished with flat-leaf Italian parsley.
Crusty, rustic bread is optional and a nice touch to soak up the remainder of the sauce.Print
Mussels in Bacon, Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper & Red Wine Sauce
Remember, although this sauce pairs perfectly with these mussels, you’re making EXTRA to freeze or use in other recipes. If you’re not in the mood for that, cut the amounts listed here in half. You can make this sauce ahead.
Only 2 cups of sauce are needed for the 4 lbs mussels. Remember to set aside 1 cup of red wine for making the mussels.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings, or 2 as main course 1x
- Category: Seafood
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- 4 lbs mussels, scrubbed
- 2 lbs good bacon, diced small (or prosciutto or guanciale)
- 8 roasted red peppers, de-skinned (some black spots are okay), water reserved
- 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes or 4–6 large and very ripe fresh tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large yellow onion, minced or 4 shallots
- 3 cups of red wine, 2 cups is for the sauce. Set aside 1 cup for the mussels.
- 4 cups homemade chicken or beef stock
- 1/2 cup of olive oil (approximately)
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 head garlic, roasted
- 8 cloves of garlic, chopped fine, amount separated in half
- 4 bay leaves
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Parsley, flat-leaf Italian preferred
- Roast your red peppers, discard the skin, set aside with any juices. If you have never roasted red peppers before, click here to learn how.
- On medium heat, add olive oil to heavy stock pot, along with the bay leaves and diced onions. You do not need to preheat the oil. Allow the onions to slowly turn translucent.
- Add the diced bacon, allow fat to render and bacon to get slightly crisp.
- Add the tomato paste, HALF of the fresh minced garlic & all of the roasted garlic, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Raise the heat to med/high and add TWO cups of the red wine. Allow to simmer for 1 1/2 minutes.
- Add the canned or fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers, fish sauce, chicken or beef stock
- Add a heavy pinch of salt.
- Simmer 15 minutes on medium heat, taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary.
- Add the butter.
- Keep simmering, lowering the heat to low. When the sauce had reduced to the consistency of a thick pasta sauce, remove from heat. This could take up to 20 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to purée the sauce, but leave it chunky and rustic. Alternatively, use a potato masher.
- Add freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
- Set the sauce aside. Now you will use 2 cups of this prepared sauce to make the mussels. Cool down the rest before refrigerating or freezing.
- In another large pot or French oven, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add remaining minced garlic, allowing it to get fragrant.
- Add the remaining cup of red wine, simmer for a few minutes, then add 2 cups of the sauce.
- Turn heat to medium-high, place the mussels into the stock pot, cover and give them a good shake.
- Mussels are ready once the shells open (5-8 minutes approximately)
- Add the parsley
This sauce will keep 1 week in the refrigerator.
Keywords: mussels, mollusks, red wine, sauce, bacon, seafood, make ahead, quick dinner