It has become my favorite mussel sauce by far. Its secret lies in lightly coloring chopped garlic together with chopped basil and chili pepper over a foundation of onion briefly sautéed in olive oil. In that simple, homey step an airy fragrance is established that eventually saturates the mussels, bestowing on them a sense of lightness and freshness that no other sauce using mussels shares.
You can easily convert this into a lovely soup by using all of the juices shed by the mussels when you open them. If served as soup, accompany it with a slice of grilled bread over which you have dribbled some olive oil.
Thin spaghetti—spaghettini—is the best carrier for this sauce, as it usually is for olive-oil based seafood sauces. The thicker regular spaghetti is a satisfactory second choice.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.