The authentic Italian mussels marinara recipe is WITHOUT TOMATO. Shocked? We get it.
It’s a very simple recipe made with few fresh ingredients that come from the gastronomic tradition of Italian fishermen (pescatori) and sailors (marinai).
“Alla Marinara” means “in the way and style of sailors (marinai).”
“Marinara” brings to mind that sauce made with tomato, garlic and oregano, so beloved served with pizza, pasta and fried food.
But in the authentic Italian mussels marinara recipe, there is NO MARINARA SAUCE. In Italy there are other recipes made with mussels and tomato, such as Cozze alla tarantina or Zuppa di Cozze (for more informations, read the paragraph below “Mussels alla Marinara: Some Variants”).
So, this is the authentic Italian mussels marinara recipe. The one you will eat in Italy when you visit us! Made with fresh mussels, cleaned and purged, then sauteed in hot oil, blended with white wine and finally seasoned with parsley and garlic. The sea flavor they give off is exquisite!
Since this is such a simple dish, the secret to excellent success is, as always, the quality of the product. The mussels must be very fresh and well cleaned.
Marinara mussels can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. When serving, they can be accompanied with warm bread croutons and lemon slices. Another great way to use Cozze alla Marinara is to dress pasta, a real delicacy!
Marinara mussels – perfect for any occasion, light and tasty – are a classic of Italian cuisine. This simple but extraordinary recipe is a must for seafood lovers. A guaranteed success!
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Authentic Italian Mussels Marinara Recipe
- Prep Time: 30 Min
- Cook Time: 10 Min
- Servings: 4
Mussels Marinara Ingredients
- 2 kg (about 4 pounds) of mussels with shells
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 100 ml (1/2 cup ) of dry white wine
- a bunch (1/3 cup) of fresh parsley
How to Clean Mussels
Step 1) – To prepare this Italian seafood recipe, start by cleaning mussels
Clean the mussels by scraping off any impurities with the blade of a small knife. Tear off the byssus, that is the bearded part that comes out of the shell. Then, with the help of a stainless steel sponge, clean well their shells. Remove algae and sand residues and encrustations. Discard any broken or hatched mussels.
Then rinse the mussels quickly under running water, to remove all impurities. But do not let them soak in water for long.
Step 2) – Now prepare the parsley and garlic. Depending on your taste, you may decide to chop both finely or leave them whole and remove them before serving the mussels.
In a large nonstick skillet, pour the extra virgin olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.
Step 3) – Add the mussels. Stir and move them around so that the heat reaches them evenly.
As soon as you see the mussels begin to hatch, which will take a couple of minutes, pour the dry white wine.
Step 4) – Finally add the parsley. Chopped or whole as you prefer.
Cover with a lid and let all the mussels fully open.
PLEASE NOTE: If the mussels are not well spaced in the pan, but overlapping and therefore opening cannot take place at the same time we give you some useful tips. Either pull the mussels out of the pan as the shells hatch or cook the mussels a few at a time or in two pans. This is because overcooking risks making the mussels hard and rubbery.
Step 5) – When the mussels are all open, leave them on the heat for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the mussels to a serving plate and drizzle them with their filtered cooking sauce.
Serve the mussels marinara immediately with slices of homemade bread and some lemon slices.
Mussels marinara is a dish that you absolutely must eat right away. You cannot store or freeze it.
Mussels Marinara: Some Useful Tips
What Can You Use Mussel Broth For?
When you cook mussels alla Marinara, you may notice that as the mussels open, they release a lot of water.
This water, together with oil, garlic and parsley, forms a delicious sauce in which to dip slices of homemade bread. A real delicacy!
Our tip is to save the water that will surely remain in the pot and that you will not consume completely.
Mussel water is in fact a precious water. You can add it to broths and fish recipes by enhancing their flavor.
Mussel water is indeed a concentrate of flavor, but it can be full of impurities. There may be residual sand that settles to the bottom of the pot. Or pieces of garlic or parsley or even pieces of shell.
Therefore, it’s best to strain the mussel water through a very fine-mesh strainer or cotton cloth.
You simply put it in an airtight jar and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Can you Freeze Mussel Broth?
One method of storing it longer is to place it in the freezer. This way you can keep it for up to 2 months.
This way you will always have mussel water on hand to prepare your seafood recipes with an extra twist!
What to do with Leftover Cooked Mussels
It’s best to eat mussels marinara freshly cooked. Only then can they be enjoyed at their best.
But if you don’t eat them all, here’s what to do!
You can store leftover mussels marinara in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container, preferably covered in their cooking water.
Another tip is to shell the mussels and use them for other recipes within a couple of days. For example, for a risotto or to make a pasta sauce.
If there are not many, you can combine the mussels with other fish and make a delicious new recipe, such as spaghetti allo scoglio!
Of course, in these cases you will have to add the mussels only at the end of the recipe because they are already cooked. You do not need to cook them twice, but just mix them with the other ingredients for a couple of minutes.
Remember that if you overcook them, the mussels will harden or take on a floury texture.
What Pairs well with Mussels?
You can serve mussels marinara as an appetizer or as a main course. The difference is only the quantity. Serve with slices of fresh or toasted bread.
They are often used to dress pasta, usually long formats such as spaghetti or linguine. In this case, we recommend that you shell the mussels and keep some with the shell on to decorate the dish. We also recommend that you finish cooking the pasta in the mussel sauce for a richer flavor.
Mussels alla Marinara: Some Variants
The recipe for mussels alla marinara is so simple that it can be considered the basic recipe for other splendid mussel recipes.
In fact, in many regions of Italy you can find recipes with the most disparate names that actually differ very little from mussels alla marinara.
It always starts with a base of mussels with hot oil, deglazed with white wine and then flavored with parsley and garlic.
In Puglia there is a variation called “Cozze alla Tarantina” that adds fresh tomatoes and lots of chili pepper.
If you add a lot of ground black pepper you get the very famous Neapolitan “Impepata di Cozze.”
Or, leaving it more brothy, you get a “Zuppa di Cozze” accompanied by generous croutons of bread.
In Emilia Romagna it is customary to prepare a marinara soup of mussels and clams together.