This is an impressive party dish, it works a treat standing up snacking around the kitchen bench or as sit down lunch. Although opening the mussels at first seems like a challenge, persevere and you will be richly rewarded.
1 kg large mussels
1 litre napoli-style tomato (pasta) sauce
2 thick slices day-old country-style bread, crusts removed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 long red chilli, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
splash of white wine
½ bunch parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1. To make the breadcrumbs, grate bread on a coarse grater.
2. Warm the olive oil in a frypan. Cook the onions, garlic and chilli gently until soft and aromatic. Add diced tomatoes and white wine, cook for 2-3 minutes to soften the tomato.
3. Remove from the heat and put the cooked vegetables in a medium bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Set aside to cool.
4. Scrub the mussels, remove the beard (see how-to below), and rinse under cold water. To open the mussels, take a butter knife and wedge the knife in between the shell opening from the side, slide the knife up and down the edge of the mussel and the shell will pop open. Leave the mussel intact in the shell. Repeat this until all the mussels are open. At first it is a bit challenging but it gets easier once you have developed your own technique.
5. Once all the mussels are open, take a large teaspoon of the stuffing and place in each shell. In a lidded frypan large enough to hold all the mussels snugly, wedge and prop the mussels up in the pan with the shells facing up.
6. Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan and pour over the mussels. Place a lid over the mussels and place over a high heat. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes. When sizzling and aromatic, transfer pan to the table and serve.
How to clean mussels
To prepare mussels for cooking, soak them in cold water for a few minutes, changing the water twice, or place in the sink under running water. Discard any mussels that are already open and don't close when gently tapped or that have broken shells. Scrub each mussel clean with a stiff brush to get rid of any barnacles, and remove the hairy "beard" that sticks out from the shell by pinching it firmly between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it towards the hinged end of the mussel shell until it comes out, then discard.
If you like this recipe, try my mussel and potato soup.