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perfectly steamed Mussels Guazetto

Mussels in Tomato & White Wine Garlic Sauce (Guazzetto di Cozze)

This steamed mussels recipe uses plump fresh black Sardinian mussels steamed in a tomato, white wine, and garlic sauce — and it only takes 15 minutes for the whole meal to come together! You’ll need to clean, de-beard, and soak the mussels ahead of time, but with a little planning ahead this meal will work on even the busiest weeknights. Be sure to pick up a baguette of crusty bread or make homemade french fries to soak up all the delicious sauce. Keep reading for all the tips and techniques for how to prepare the mussels for cooking and avoid eating sand or grit.

How Long Does it Take to Prepare and Cook Mussels?

Cooking mussels is incredibly easy. They only take about 5 minutes to fully steam open making them a quick, simple, and healthy choice for any meal. But preparing mussels can be a bit of work depending on how “clean” they are when you buy them. You can usually buy them already scrubbed clean or at the very least, free of the mud and grit that is part of a mussel’s life and habitat.

When mussels are available pre-cleaned, they make for a really easy meal solution. In which case, the only work involved in getting these bivalves to the dinner table is removing their beards (the scrubby little part connected to the mussel) and letting them soak a while first. Soaking mussels is necessary to allow them to release any sand and grit they may be holding onto inside their shells. Use the trick of adding some flour and salt to the soaking water which ensures you won’t end up eating sand. For this recipe, I’ve used mussels from Sardegna (Sardinia), but you can use any variety of sustainable mussels like PEI mussels (Prince Edward Island mussels) which are especially tasty.

How to Avoid Over-Cooking Mussels

When steaming mussels or clams, keep a large bowl next to the steaming pot.  As soon as the mussels begin to open, remove them to the bowl individually using a pair of tongs. This will keep the mussels (or clams) from becoming overcooked and rubbery.  All mussels tend to open up within about 5 minutes. Clams tend to take about 8 minutes.

When the mussels have all opened up, you should have an empty pan full of mussel (or clam) juice and sauce which you may choose to reduce slightly or serve as is. Whenever you’re ready to eat, simply place the mussels (or clams) back into the pan and serve while still hot. *If you happen to have any leftover mussel white wine sauce, refrigerate overnight and use it to make pasta the next day.  I usually freeze it so I can pull it out for a really simple and delicious mussel-flavored pasta later on. It’s delicious and a great way to get the most out of these shellfish.

Green Mussels Versus Black Mussels – What’s the Difference?

There are a few differences between black mussels and green mussels. Black mussels have a deep blue-black shell whereas green mussels have a grey-brown shell with a bright green colored lip around the edge (they’re really pretty). Black mussels also tend to be smaller (around 2-3 inches).  Green mussels are larger around 5 1/2 to 6 inches. And of course, the flavor of both of these mussel varieties also depends on whether they’re farmed or grown in their natural habitats.  The best way to understand the flavor and textural difference between green and black mussels is to eat them for yourself.

Here are the main differences in flavor and texture of black and green mussels:

  • Green mussels tend to be chewier and work well in recipes for steaming or frying because they tend to have a less delicate flavor than their black mussels cousins. Most green mussels are farmed making them more expensive than black mussels.
  • Black mussels have a more delicate texture and sweet slightly briny flavor.

Guazzetto di Cozze (Mussels in Tomato + White Wine Garlic Sauce) Ingredients

You’ll be happy to know this recipe for steamed mussels uses only a handful of ingredients (most of which you probably already have in your pantry). You can always add even more flavor by adding sausage and mushrooms to your steamed mussels.

  • sustainable mussels
  • tomato passata (sub crushed tomatoes, or plain tomato sauce)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic clove
  • dry white wine (pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, etc.)
  • parsley
  • grape tomatoes (optional but recommended)
  • dried chili pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
  • Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)

Below Photo of Mussels in Tomato White Wine and Garlic Sauce (Cozze di Guazzetto) From a Restaurant Here in  Italy

When I first tasted this dish, it was really good, but I knew immediately I could easily recreate it at home and get way more mussels for the money. This dish was the inspiration behind this recipe.

How to Make Guazzetto di Cozze (Mussels in Tomato and White Wine Garlic Sauce)

  1. Clean the mussels. Discard any mussels that are cracked or open. With the remaining mussels remove the “beard” from each by tugging and sliding upwards. This should easily remove the beards. Place de-beared mussels in a bowl of water until all beards have been removed. If the mussels have been prewashed and de-bearded you may proceed with soaking them.  However, if mussels have grit or mud on the shells, you’ll need to scrub each one clean with a heavy-duty scrubber.
  2. Soak the mussels. Add the debearded and cleaned mussels to a large bowl, sprinkle 1/4-1/2 cup of flour over the surface, add 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt, and cover with water. Stir everything around with your hand to incorporate the flour into the water. Set a timer for 1 hour. After the mussels have soaked, rinse each one under running water and place them in a clean bowl.
  3. Heat olive oil and smashed garlic in a sauté pan or dutch oven. Cook the garlic over medium heat until it’s lightly blistered and blonde but not browned.
  4. Add the tomato purée and parsley. Add the tomato purée and parsley, increase the heat to medium-high, and sauté for about five minutes.
  5. Add the wine & cook the mussels. Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, give the mixture a quick stir, and add the mussels.  Immediately cover with a lid and shake the pan (while still on the heat source) occasionally to move the mussels around. After about 2 minutes, check for any mussels that have steamed open and remove them using a pair of tongs to a separate bowl. Place the lid back on if needed and continue checking to remove cooked mussels until all have opened and removed. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the mussels sauce. Throw in the butter, chopped parsley, and diced tomatoes, and cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and the sauce comes together. Add the mussels back to the pot, toss everything together, and serve with French Fries or a baguette of bread. Enjoy!

What to serve with Mussels Guazzetto (Mussels in Tomato-White Wine Garlic Sauce)

Here are a few of our favorite recipes to make when we’re cooking mussels.

Italian Mussels Guazzetto Step-by-Step Recipe Photos and Instructions

Guazzetto di Cozze (Mussels in Tomato and White Wine Garlic Sauce) Tips & Techniques

  • How long does it take to steam mussels? Mussels steam up quickly in 5 minutes or less which makes them ideal for quick and healthy meals. If you let them cook much longer than this, they will become overcooked and rubbery.
  • How do I make sure I don’t overcook mussels so they aren’t chewy and tough?  Ensure the mussels don’t overcook by immediately removing any open mussels to a bowl while the rest continue cooking. Replace the lid back on the pot to allow the others to open up. Repeat this step, checking every 30 seconds or so to remove opened shells until all mussels are opened. Let the mussels rest in the bowl and toss them back into the sauce before serving.
  • Where do the best mussels come from? This is subjective of course, but experts and connoisseurs say the best mussels come from the river Scheldt, which connects Western Belgium to the Netherlands.  Others say the best mussels come from New Zealand.
  • Why do mussels need to be soaked prior to cooking and how long should I soak them? Mussels need to be soaked prior to cooking so they release any sand they may have accumulated.  Soak mussels for 20 minutes to an hour in water mixed with about 1/4- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and a couple of tablespoons of sea salt. Alternatively, you can soak mussels in cold seawater or salted water for 20 minutes to 1 hour prior to cooking.  Rinse well before using.
  • What do mussels taste like? Any good mussel should taste briny and like the ocean or seabed from which it came. Unless you’re eating a freshwater mussel which will be a little less intensely flavored. Mussels should still taste a little bit “fishy”, but in a fresh delicious way and not overwhelmingly so. They are usually delicate tasting and sometimes even a bit sweet.
  • What’s the difference in taste between mussels and clams?  Clams have a briny and pungent flavor, while mussels have a smoother more delicate flavor. Clams are also chewier than mussels for the most part (green mussels can actually be quite chewy).

Let’s get started!

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perfectly steamed Mussels Guazetto in a white ceramic serving bowl

Italian Guazzetto di Cozze (Mussels in Tomato & White Wine Sauce)


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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This steamed mussels recipe uses plump fresh black Sardinian mussels steamed in a tomato, white wine, and garlic sauce — and it only takes 15 minutes for the whole meal to come together! You’ll need to clean, de-beard, and soak the mussels ahead of time, but with a little planning ahead this meal will work on even the busiest weeknights. Be sure to pick up a baguette of crusty bread or make homemade french fries to soak up all the delicious sauce. Keep reading for all the tips and techniques for how to prepare the mussels for cooking and avoid eating sand or grit. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed, cleaned, and beards removed (1kg)
  • 7 ounces tomato purée (OR crushed tomatoes, or plain tomato sauce) (200g)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (50g)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, or more or less to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine (45g) (pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, etc.)
  • flatleaf parsley chopped, to taste
  • diced sweet tomatoes (optional but recommended)
  • 1 whole dried chili pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes to taste)
  • grated Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)


Instructions

  1. Clean the mussels. Discard any mussels that are cracked or open. With the remaining mussels remove the “beard” from each by tugging and sliding upwards. This should easily remove the beards. Place de-beared mussels in a bowl of water until all beards have been removed. If the mussels have been prewashed and de-bearded you may proceed with soaking them.  However, if mussels have grit or mud on the shells, you’ll need to scrub each one clean with a heavy-duty scrubber.
  2. Soak the mussels. Add the debearded and cleaned mussels to a large bowl, sprinkle 1/4-1/2 cup of flour over the surface, add 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt, and cover with water. Stir everything around with your hand to incorporate the flour into the water. Set a timer for 1 hour. After the mussels have soaked, rinse each one under running water and place them in a clean bowl.
  3. Heat olive oil and smashed garlic in a sauté pan or dutch oven. Cook the garlic over medium heat until it’s lightly blistered and blonde but not browned.
  4. Add the tomato purée and parsley. Add the tomato purée and parsley, increase the heat to medium-high, and sauté for about five minutes.
  5. Add the wine & cook the mussels. Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, give the mixture a quick stir, and add the mussels.  Immediately cover with a lid and shake the pan (while still on the heat source) occasionally to move the mussels around. After about 2 minutes, check for any mussels that have steamed open and remove them using a pair of tongs to a separate bowl. Place the lid back on if needed and continue checking to remove cooked mussels until all have opened and removed. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the mussels sauce. Throw in the butter, chopped parsley, and diced tomatoes, and cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and the sauce comes together. Add the mussels back to the pot, toss everything together, and serve with French Fries or a baguette of bread. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Do not over-salt the sauce before you add the mussels. Remember that mussels are typically naturally salty, so the juices they contain will add salt to your final sauce.
  • Make the plate pretty. Just before serving, sprinkle the mussels and sauce with a bit more chopped flat-leaf parsley to brighten up the dish.
  • Don’t overcook the mussels. Remove any mussels as they open to a separate bowl with a pair of tongs so they don’t overcook. Place them back into the white wine and mussel sauce when ready to serve.
  • What do I do with leftover tomato white wine sauce? Do not throw out any of the leftover sauce if you don’t eat it all. This stuff is like liquid gold. I use it to make mussel-flavored pasta when I don’t feel like really cooking, but want something fresh and tasty.  Either refrigerate overnight and use it for lunch or dinner or store it in the freezer and defrost when you feel like having seafood without any of the work.
  • Feel free to omit the butter if you’re cutting calories. It’ll still taste great.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Soak Time: 60 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Fish + Seafood
  • Method: Steam
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2
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2 Comments

  1. The recipe does not state the amount of white wine. Nor does it give any suggestions of what type of white wine.

    • Joanne! THANK YOU so much for pointing this out! What an oversight to leave out an ingredient that’s actually in the title no less😊. Use a nice dry white wine like pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, sancerre, pinot gris, etc. If you’re already a dry white wine drinker, use what you have on hand. No need to venture out to pick up anything special.
      I have revised the recipe card and I can’t thank you enough for pointing this out so I could fix it. Sometimes it happens, but I’ll be more careful about future posts❤️.

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