One of my favourite summer dishes. I absolutely love the dramatic colour contrast of the black squid ink pasta and the vibrant orange of the mussels. What a joy for both the eye and the palate.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
Squid ink linguine or spaghetti, 320 gr
Fresh mussels, 1 kg
Garlic, 2 cloves, finely minced
Extra virgin olive oil, about 8 tbsps
Dried crashed chillies, 2 tsps
White wine, a third of a glass
Parsley, finely chopped
Buy mussels that are tightly closed. If they are closed, they are fresh. Also if you don’t cook them immediately, keep the mussels in the fridge, tightly closed in their bag, so that they don’t lose their internal juices. I recommend buying them on the same day you are eating them.
Cleaning the mussels
If the mussels are fresh, they'll look and smell fresh, with closed shells. For the ones that are open, tap the shell and if it closes completely, then the mussel is still fresh and good to eat. Wash the mussels thoroughly under cold, running water. Scrub each mussel with a stiff brush to remove any barnacle. Not all mussels have a ‘beard’, but if you see one, pull it off from the shell. These days you can find mussels that are already clean, without a beard. These have been previously passed through a machine to remove the beard. This process often kills the mussels, so I prefer buying the 'bearded' ones cause they are usually fresher. Discard any broken mussel.
Cooking the mussels
Place the mussels in a large pan. Add the wine and cover with a lid. Let steam for a few minutes, until when they open (3 minutes is usually enough). Do not overcook the mussels and remove them from the stove as soon as they open, otherwise they’ll become chewy.
Once open, remove from the heat and set aside to cool down a little. Remove half of the shell of each mussel, but if you prefer, you can skip this step. I just prefer not to see too many shells in my plate.
Drain the mussels, saving the liquid. Sieve the liquid through a fine sieve, to remove all impurities. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti or linguine, steering every now and then. Check the cooking time on the pasta packaging and 7-8 minutes before the pasta is cooked, proceed to the next step.
Mince the garlic and the parsley very finely. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, the crushed chilli and half of the finely chopped parsley, and cook for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic as it becomes bitter.
Add the mussels cooking liquid to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes, so that some of the liquid evaporates. You don't want the sauce to be too watery.
Add the mussels and toss in the pan for a couple of minutes.
Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the mussels.
Add the remaining parsley and toss together over moderately high heat for about a minute, to allow the spaghetti to absorb the juices.
Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil and serve right away.
My favourite white wine, Sardinian Vermentino, ice cold.