Spaghetti with Mussels and Garlic

Spaghetti alla Tarantina

This is another of Signor Balducci’s superb seafood recipes from the Riva del Sole hotel near Bari. Unlike him, I don’t know how to shuck mussels open with a graceful flick of my wrist. He opens them first and then cooks them, but I like to cook mussels first because it is the greatest test for their freshness and edibility. So here is the recipe, very slightly adapted, for the most marvellous spaghetti dish that is simplicity itself to prepare.


  • 30 fresh mussels
  • salt
  • 12 oz (350 g) spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped


Steam the mussels in a large pan for about 5–8 minutes. Discard any that have not opened after this time and take the rest out of their shells. Leave to cool. (Save some of the prettier shells for decorating the finished dish.) Strain the liquid and reserve.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil, then toss in the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions on the packet.

In a wide, deep pan, heat the oil and fry the garlic for about 5 minutes, then add pepper and parsley.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, strain it and add it to the pan with the cooked mussels and their liquid, strained. Toss to mix all the ingredients. Heat for 1–2 minutes, then serve.