Italian Mussels and Pasta

This mussel stew with garlic, parsley, saffron, and white wine was inspired by the Venetian soup zuppa de peoci, which is typically served over sliced crusty bread.   

We serve it over pasta. For a more beautiful presentation, remove the mussels from their shells before serving. However, who wants to be elegant? Enjoy!  


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. 2 large garlic cloves, chopped. 1 15-ounce can of smashed tomatoes with basil. A large pinch of saffron threads (see Note) steeped in 2 tablespoons of water or white wine.  

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned (see Tips) ¾ cup dry white wine. A large pinch of crushed red pepper. ¼ teaspoon salt Add freshly ground pepper to taste and ¼ cup minced fresh parsley. 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest (see Tips)  


Heat a big saucepan of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, then transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover up to stay warm.  

Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.   

Bring the crushed tomatoes and saffron with the soaking liquid to a simmer, being careful not to spatter.  

Meanwhile, bring the mussels and wine to a boil in a Dutch oven (or another big pot) over high heat. Cover, turn to medium heat, and simmer for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mussels open.   

Using a slotted spoon, move the mussels to a large bowl. (Discard any unopened mussels.)  

Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the mussel liquid into the tomato sauce. Stir in the crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.  

Toss in roughly half of the sauce with the pasta. Divide the spaghetti among four pasta bowls, top with the mussels, then spread the remaining sauce over them. Serve garnished with parsley and lemon zest.  

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