Note: Hi everyone. Happy new year to you. Hope this year brings you a lot of happiness and good fortune. I made this recipe just before the new year. I semi-wrote the post then and have just finished it now. Bon appetit!
Initially, I wanted to call this recipe post, “Mussels cooked with a jar of pasta sauce” because that’s exactly what it is – a recipe hack that shows the versatility of store bought pasta sauces. However, I thought the original title was too long so I’ve shortened it. Which is fine because it’s still clear what it’s about. Anyhow, before you scoff, do take the time to read the full story first. 1
Personally, I think store bought pasta sauces are a lifesaver. They’re affordable and they keep well in the cupboard for emergency meals. I admit that there’s been many nights when we’ve utilized the convenience of store bought pasta sauces to whip up a quick and tasty pasta meal that’s difficult to refuse.
The good thing about store bought pasta sauces is that they make a great base sauce that can be added to. Like you perhaps, I often add extra chopped vegetables, herbs and seasoning to give it my unique vibe. Then, I add cooked mince and pasta to the mix and before we know it, we have a perfect meal for any time of day.
Alternatively, I thought, instead of the mince and pasta, why not throw in some mussels to the sauce instead? And it worked. By doing so, I end up with a mussels in a tomato base sauce dish that looks, smells and tastes delicious – ready to be enjoyed and sopped up with crusty bread and eaten with fingers. It’s good.
For this recipe/post, I used the Leggo’s Napoletana sauce which already tastes great as is but more so when tweaked to my palate. There’s a myriad brands and flavours of pasta sauces out there and I’m confident that most, if not all would work quite well. Personally, I prefer the chunky sauce type for its texture.
In this recipe, I simply start off by quickly frying some onion, garlic and chilies in olive oil. Then, I add the pasta sauce and some white wine. And then, I throw in the cleaned/scrubbed mussels and let it simmer until done. Adjust with salt and pepper, add chopped parsley, and hey presto! – “Mussels cooked
with a jar of in pasta sauce” right before our eyes. 2
Some readers might quibble – “Hey, this ain’t a proper recipe because it uses a jar of store bought pasta sauce?” Hey, each to their own. Yes, perhaps this recipe tastes different to ones that are cooked in a similar sauce made from scratch. But I’m all for fast, simple and tasty dishes. And if this recipe can do that, then it suits me just fine. 3
Some readers might wonder – “This dish looks a lot like mussels marinara, so why not call it that?” Thank you and that’s a good point. While I’m not an expert with Italian food, I can see why you’d think that. From my research, it seems that both “Napoletana” and “marinara” may refer to the same sauce. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) But the point of this post is to share the versatility of store bought pasta sauces in general – not just discuss the Napoletana/marinara story. So, the title of this post remains as is. 4
Some readers might also think – “Cooking mussels in a tomato base sauce from scratch is actually very easy and simple.” Ok, and so it is. But you’d have to agree that the convenience and taste of store bought pasta sauces is hard to beat. And for this reason, it makes a great choice to effectively cook mussels in. In this recipe, if you prefer, you could cook the mussels in the pasta sauce alone. However, I do recommend that the other ingredients are added for their extra character. 5
Australia has amazing seafood, and mussels are excellent right now. They’re fresh, affordable and often readily available at the fish shop or the supermarket. I love their delicious/oceanic flavours, their meaty texture, and of course the fun in eating them. They’re also very easy to cook as illustrated in this post. Basically, all you need to do is clean/prepare them and then throw them in your favourite sauce. Another tasty way to enjoy mussels is here. 6
I love recipe hacks because they save time and make life easier. Let’s admit it, this is important for many of us. Whether it’s dressing up 2 minute noodles into a fast and fancy soup; using leftover rice to make colourful fried rice; or turning fridge finds into interesting salads and sandwiches – recipe hacks, like life hacks are pretty clever tricks to know and have under our belts. And they’re here to stay.
So, this summer, why not give this “mussels cooked in pasta sauce” a go? It’s simple yet impressive. It’s delicious and it works. And that’s why I wanted to share it with you. Be adventurous in your cooking and don’t be afraid to use pasta sauces or any other recipe hacks that you fancy to help make your time in the kitchen easier.
Tell me readers, do you enjoy eating mussels? If so, what are some of your favourite ways? Also, do you cook with store bought pasta sauces? ?
- 1 kg of fresh blue mussels
- 1 jar of pasta sauce (570ml) (I used Napoletana)
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 chilies
- ½ bunch of flat leaf parsley
- ½ cup of white wine
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 lemon (to serve)
- crusty bread (to serve)
- Wash and clean the mussels. Remove beards and debris. Rinse and put aside.
- Chop the onion, crush the garlic, slice the chilies, chop the parsley, and quarter the lemon.
- In a saucepan, add the olive oil and increase the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, and chilies. Stir until softened and light brown.
- Add the pasta sauce, wine, and salt & pepper. Stir through and simmer for a few minutes.
- Add the mussels. Stir through and simmer until the shells open. Don't overcook.
- Add ½ of the parsley and stir through.
- Taste test. Adjust if need be.
- Serve immediately. Garnish with remaining parsley. Serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges.
- Bon appetit & sern sap!
- This is not a sponsored post. I simply wanted to share with you the versatility of store bought pasta sauces. ↩
- If you prefer, instead of enjoying the dish with bread, you can also add cooked spaghetti or fettuccine to the pan when the mussels are done, stir it through, and enjoy it that way instead. ↩
- After saying that, I’m now inspired to make my own pasta/tomato sauce. So, stay tuned. ↩
- Online, there’s a confusing and conflicting discussion about the definition of marinara sauce, depending on where you are. According to Wikipedia (and Oxford Dictionaries and Your Dictionary), marinara (English: mariner’s) sauce is described as “an Italian sauce that originated in Naples, usually made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and onions. This sauce is widely used in Italian-American cuisine, which has greatly diverged from its Old World origins.” Reference: Wikipedia. Mario Batali shares his take on a marinara sauce recipe here. He uses it as a building block in many dishes as well as just a simple quick pasta sauce that can be transformed in a thousand ways. Check it out. ↩
- I’ve found several mussels recipes (made from scratch) which looks delicious and easy to make. I look forward to sharing some of them with you in future posts, including a “mussels marinara”. ↩
- Remember, “The bottom line is that if the mussel is fresh, you cook it and it doesn’t open, but it smells good, it’s more than fine to eat.” – Chef Michael Bacash of Bacash Restaurant, Melbourne. Reference: Australian Mussels Industry Association. Also, when cooking mussels, it’s best to do so immediately/asap. This way, you’ll enjoy them when they’re at their best and freshest. ↩