A new way to enjoy mussels is pairing it with a puttanesca sauce. This mussles alla puttanesca recipe is robust and full of flavor, perfect with a loaf of sourdough and garnished with lots of herbs!
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I have been so excited to share this dish with you all! The flavors are amazing and I really think you’ll enjoy what I have to show you! This Mussels alla Puttanesca Recipe is something to take note of. If you have ever seen the famous San Franciscan, Italian-immigrant-inspired dish called Ciopinno, this is where I’m getting my inspiration.
Some of you may not have even heard of the word “puttanesca,” let alone know what it is. Puttanesca is an Italian sauce named after women in a particular… industry shall we say. It’s fragrant, it’s complex in texture and goes with so many things! When I’ve had it, it was usually served with chicken, which is a fine application but I knew it could be so much more. Traditionally, puttanesca is served with pasta. Whenever you see alla puttanesca on a menu, this indicates that a particular dish is being served with the puttanesca sauce.
Puttanesca is a delicious sauce of tomatoes, anchovies, olives, capers, lemon and herbs with a healthy amount of olive oil. No wonder the Italians have that glow about them! This sauce is the fountain of youth, I’m telling ya (not really but you’ll fall in love with this sauce I promise!).
Now some of you might be thinking woah Marlee! Anchovies??? Yeah! They’re amazing little fish that are hidden in so many sauces you use almost regularly. Anchovies are a great secret weapon because they’re super salty (from the packing) and give an excellent meaty flavor to any sauce they’re added to!
They typically melt right into the sauce while it cooks so you never get a huge chunk of salty anchovy. I love using them in super-secret ninja ways because then I fell really sneaky!
The trick to making this awesome sauce liquid enough to steam the mussels is deglazing with white wine a few times throughout the process. A vermouth is also an excellent option because of the licorice flavor it lends which pairs nicely to the fennel and tarragon!
Notes about mussels
How to Clean and Care for Mussels
I want to stress the importance of getting your mussels from a good reputable source. Don’t get any that are “Manager’s Special” or any of that nonsense. Ask for the freshest mussels they have and be sure to use them within a day or two. Keep them wrapped up in a towel (so they can breathe) and topped with ice; mussels live in nice cold water so to keep them fresher, longer, you have to mimic their living environment (but don’t put them in the water!).
I typically take them out of the butcher paper, place them in a strainer and place the strainer in a bowl to allow the draining of juices and water. I then take a towel and cover the top of the towel with ice to keep them nice and cool.
When it comes to cleaning mussels, it’s super simple. Mussels come with little hairs that helped them attach to pier poles and whatnot called beards and you want to remove those before cooking. Just simply yank the beards out. If you happen to see a bunch of small barnacles or bumps on top of the shells, take a metal scrubby and scrub them off.
When I bought my mussels, the fishmonger I got them from did a really good job cleaning the mussels for me, I had little work to do with preparing them. It pays to get your mussels from really good sources!
As you are checking your mussels, before cooking them, it’s important that you do some quality control. Check to see if your mussels are safe to eat! Just as storing mussels is super simple, checking to see if they’re fresh is simple as well. Fresh mussels will either be completely closed or ever so slightly open. If the mussels ARE slightly open, you can just squeeze the mussels shell together and it should stay shut or at least start contracting shut. If your mussels are NOT fresh, they will be open and will not shut if you squeeze them close. Throw those away immediately.
How to Cook Mussels
Cooking mussels is really quite simple, there’s really only one way that I know of to cook them in the shell. Steam them. You really only want to cook mussels for about 3-5 minutes or until the shells pop open. It’s super important to have the sauce completely ready before adding the mussels because they are the finishing touch essentially… you know… besides the garnishing. Because mussels are seafood, I really wouldn’t feel comfortable storing leftovers (don’t worry though, there won’t be any leftovers with this dish!). I feel that shellfish, in particular, don’t really reheat all that well. Puttanesca does though! So make a ton of that yummy sauce!
I love to eat this with a nice piece of toasted, crusty bread to help sop up all of that yummy sauce! I also like to finish it off, before serving, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, as well as some fresh herbs to compliment the sauce. My herb garnish suggestions include:
- Fennel fronds
Enjoy this fantastic dish and let me know how you like this fancy schmancy sauce!
Hey! This looks like a fantastic dinner for a date night. If you’re looking for other date night recipe ideas, check out these posts:
- Braised Pork Belly with Stone Fruit Mostarda
- Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower and Swiss Chard
- Gourmet Mac and Cheese with Butter Poached Lobster
- Four Mushroom Beef Stroganoff
- “Mexican-Style” Shrimp Scampi
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- 1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pounds fresh mussels
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 each shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 each anchovy
- 1 dry pint cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup black olives, rough chop
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 each lemon, juiced
- tarragon and fennel fronds, for garnish
- Saute fennel, garlic and shallot in olive oil over medium high heat until translucent.
- Add tomato paste and cook until caramelization occurs, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with some white wine and reduce until thickened.
- Add anchovy and cook, allowing to melt within the sauce, about 4 minutes.
- Add cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, and oregano and the rest of the white wine. Allow sauce to reduce.
- Add mussels and cover with a lid until mussels begin to open, about 5-7 minutes.
- Once mussels are cooked, add a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with herbs. Serve with bread and enjoy.
*In the pictures, you may noticed that I chose to skin my tomatoes. This is completely optional but I feel like cherry tomatoes have a rather thick skin and so I wanted to leave that texture out of my sauce. If you want to learn how to skin your tomatoes, refer to this post.
Nutrition InformationYield 2 Serving Size cup
Amount Per ServingCalories 183Cholesterol 16mgSodium 899mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 3gSugar 1gProtein 8g