Pasta With Mussels, Tomatoes and Fried Capers
The best part of a big pot of mussels is arguably the broth, especially when it features plenty of garlic and wine. Here, the mussels and their broth — combined with ripe summer tomatoes — make a heady, rich sauce for pasta. A topping of toasted garlicky bread crumbs run through with fried capers gives the mixture texture and tang. This is just as good warm as it is hot, so feel free to make it up to an hour in advance, adding the herbs just before serving.
- Serves: 3 persons
- Salt, as needed
- 8ounces calamarata, rigatoni or other short pasta
- 4tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2tablespoons drained capers, patted dry
- 3garlic cloves, 1 minced, 2 thinly sliced
- ⅓cup panko bread crumbs
- Large pinch of red-pepper flakes
- 2cups diced ripe, fresh tomatoes (2 medium tomatoes)
- Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- Fresh lemon juice, to taste
- ½cup dry white wine
- 3large sprigs fresh oregano or marjoram
- 2pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded
- 1tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
- ¼cup torn fresh basil or mint
Step 1Bring a medium pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.
Step 2As pasta cooks, prepare the bread crumbs: In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add capers and minced garlic, and let sizzle for 30 seconds. Add bread crumbs, and fry until both crumbs and capers are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Scrape the crumbs and capers onto a plate, and season to taste with salt.
Step 3Add remaining tablespoon oil to pot and let it get hot. Add sliced garlic and red-pepper flakes, and let sizzle until garlic is golden at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes have softened and start to lose their shape, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomato solids to a small bowl, add lemon juice to taste, and set aside.
Step 4Add wine and oregano to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add mussels, cover and cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally, until mussels have opened and are cooked through, about 4 to 7 minutes. Transfer mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, and let cool slightly. Discard any unopened mussels.
Step 5Simmer the mussels liquid until reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Discard oregano sprigs.
Step 6When mussels are still hot (but not too hot to handle), pull meat from shells and add to the pot with reduced mussel broth (discard shells). Add pasta, tomatoes and butter, and toss well. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt if needed.
Step 7Transfer mixture to a shallow serving bowl and toss with herbs. Top with bread crumb-caper mixture and serve.