Fresh mussels are quick and easy to cook and practically make their own sauce. Those that we buy in the market today are generally farm-raised and, as a result, are much cleaner and don’t need to be “purged” of grit and sand before cooking. Substitute clams if you like them better. The traditional recipe calls for a long pasta but you can use anything you want. You can also remove the mussels from the shell before combining with the pasta. I don’t serve this with cheese, but you can if you want.
Heat the butter in a pot large enough to hold the mussels. Add the onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until softened but not brown, 2 minutes or so. Add the wine, parsley, zest, fennel, red pepper, if desired, mussels, and a grinding or two of black pepper. Cover tightly and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, still covered, until the mussels open. Discard any that don’t open.
While the mussels are cooking, cook the linguini in lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, place in warm bowls, and ladle the mussels and their cooking liquid over the pasta. Serve immediately.
© 2004 John Ash. All rights reserved.