Mussel Casserole

Zuppa di Cozze

All the flavours and colours of Naples are brought together in this delightful dish of mussels.


  • about 50 fresh, live mussels
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 handfuls parsley, chopped
  • 1–2 dried red chilli peppers (optional)
  • 10 fl oz (300 ml) passata
  • salt and pepper
  • 15 fl oz (450 ml) fish stock
  • 4 or more large slices coarse white bread, lightly toasted


Scrub and de-beard all the mussels with great care. Wash them very carefully in several changes of water, then put them into a deep saucepan over a medium heat and steam them open. Shake the pan to encourage them, and remove them as they open up. (Discard any that do not open after 8 minutes.) Put them into a bowl, strain the juices from the saucepan into a second bowl and leave to settle: the aim is to end up with very little sand and sediment.

Chop 3 of the garlic cloves and fry them in the olive oil in a heavy, flameproof casserole with 1 handful of the chopped parsley for about 5 minutes. If you are using the chillies, add them, then add the passata, season with salt and pepper and stir. Strain the mussel liquor and fish stock into the pan and simmer to reduce the liquid by about half. Tip in the open mussels and raise the heat. You are not cooking the mussels, simply heating everything through - it will take 3–4 minutes.

Cut the remaining 2 garlic cloves in half and rub the bread with them. Lay the bread at the bottom of a warmed tureen or wide bowl and pour all the mussels and their liquid over it. Scatter with the remaining chopped parsley and serve.