Pasta with Mussels, Tomatoes and Fried Capers

by Susan Hanna

This dish from the New York Times is a great way to use up the last of the season’s tomatoes. Clean and debeard mussels (discard any that are broken or remain open), and cook the pasta. Meanwhile, create a delicious topping of capers, garlic and breadcrumbs. Cook tomatoes with garlic and hot pepper flakes and set aside. Cook the mussels in wine and oregano and remove them from their shells (discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking). Reduce the liquid and then return the mussels and tomatoes to the pan. Add butter, toss with herbs and serve topped with the breadcrumb mixture.

Serves 4.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Unico and Savor capers are additive-free. Use a butter without colour and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I used PC Black Label panko bread crumbs, which are additive-free and a white wine from Frogpond Farm with a sulfite level below 10 parts per million. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Salt, as needed
  • 8 ounces (226 g) calamarata, rigatoni or other short pasta
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) drained capers, patted dry
  • 3 garlic cloves, 1 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup (85 ml) panko bread crumbs
  • Large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (500 ml) diced ripe, fresh tomatoes (2 medium tomatoes)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • ½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 3 large sprigs fresh oregano or marjoram
  • 2 pounds (900 g) mussels, rinsed and debearded
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) torn fresh basil or mint

Preparation:

Bring a medium pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

As pasta cooks, prepare the bread crumbs: In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons (45 ml) oil over medium heat. Add capers and minced garlic, and let sizzle for 30 seconds. Add bread crumbs, and fry until both crumbs and capers are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Scrape the crumbs and capers onto a plate, and season to taste with salt.

Add remaining tablespoon (15 ml) oil to pot and let it get hot. Add sliced garlic and red-pepper flakes, and let sizzle until garlic is golden at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes have softened and start to lose their shape, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomato solids to a small bowl, add lemon juice to taste, and set aside.

Add wine and oregano to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add mussels, cover and cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally, until mussels have opened and are cooked through, about 4 to 7 minutes. Transfer mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, and let cool slightly. Discard any unopened mussels.

Simmer the mussels liquid until reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Discard oregano sprigs.

When mussels are still hot (but not too hot to handle), pull meat from shells and add to the pot with reduced mussel broth (discard shells). Add pasta, tomatoes and butter, and toss well. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt if needed.

Transfer mixture to a shallow serving bowl and toss with herbs. Top with bread crumb-caper mixture and serve. 

From the New York Times