When my friends and I were in Cinque Terre, we were determined to try the area's stuffed mussels, a dish they are well known for. On our first night, we found a restaurant that served them, so we gave them a try. Served in a light tomato sauce that was almost closer to a tomato broth, the mussels instantly made their way onto my "Best Thing I Ate in Italy" list. Three of us each ate an entire plate of them. The next day we were all still thinking about the mussels so much that we went back to the same restaurant and ordered them again.
Last night I tried to replicate the stuffed mussels to the best of my memory. I made some slight alterations, though. I was afraid that I would not get the sauce correct, and that it would end up making the breadcrumbs in the stuffing soggy, so I chose to make the sauce on the side to drizzle on top of the mussels. In truth, Ryan and I didn't even end up using the sauce because the mussels were so good on their own! The mussels that I had in Cinque Terre were also stuffed with the shell still in tact. I chose to stuff the mussels on the half shell. I knew I wouldn't be able to replicate those mussels perfectly, but I must have done something right because when Ryan got home from work his reaction was, "I'm surprised people aren't lined up outside. You can smell dinner from the parking lot. It smells like an Italian restaurant in here!".
Adapted from Food Network
-Serves 2 as a main course, or 4-6 as an appetizer-
2 pounds mussels
1/2 cup white wine
3-4 thin slices of prosciutto
3/4 cup bread crumbs
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil plus a little extra to drizzle on mussels
salt and pepper to taste
- To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl and fill with fresh water until the mussels are completely submerged. Add in 1/2 a cup of cornmeal and stir to combine. Let the mussels sit for 30-60 minutes to expel the sand and salt in them. If you don't have cornmeal, just let the mussels sit in fresh water for about 30 minutes. Then, clean each mussel by first pulling off the "beard". The beard is the patch of threads hanging out of the side hinge of the mussel. Remove it by pulling it towards the hinge, or with a sharp knife. Then, scrub the mussels with a firm brush. When clean, place in a clean bowl with a little fresh water. Throw out any mussels that are open or chipped.
- After the mussels are cleaned, put them in a saute pan with the wine and cook over high heat until the mussels open. Throw out any mussels that do not open. (Note: you can also steam the mussels open with fresh water rather than wine. The wine just adds to the flavor.)
- Remove one half of the shell on each mussel. Place the mussels in their half shells on a baking sheet.
- Chop up the prosciutto and mix in a bowl with the bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Be very light on the salt; the prosciutto adds a lot of salt to the mixture already. Mix everything together thoroughly.
- Put a little bit of the bread crumb mixture on top of each mussel. Drizzle the mussels with a little more olive oil.
- Broil the mussels for about 2-3 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.
As I said, these are absolutely fantastic on their own, but if you want to add a sauce to them, just mix some marinara sauce with some white wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. This will thin out the sauce and give it even more depth of flavor!
Ryan's rating of Stuffed Mussels - 5. Cha-ching!