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food picture - mussels in tomato sauce

Zuppa di Cozze – Mussels in tomato sauce


Here’s a simple recipe to add to your Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner for Christmas Eve. You could add a splash of white wine or some fish or clam broth for some extra flavor.


  • 2 lbs black mussels – ask the fishmonger to check each one to make sure none are cracked or otherwise damaged
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half or lightly smashed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 28 oz can good quality imported peeled Italian tomatoes – I have been using Mutti brand
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Toasted bread rounds or otherwise good crusty bread


  1. Clean the mussels with you get home. Inspect each one and remove any obvious surface debris and pull out and “beards” you see from between the shells. Rinse them under cold water and rub them a little like handwashing clothes.
  2. Heat a large sauce pan with a lid over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and gently cook until the garlic begins to brown. Remove and discard the garlic.
  3. Crush the peeled tomatoes and add to the pan along with their juices. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or so breaking up the tomatoes and reduce till you get a somewhat thick sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. (The cooking juice and the salt from the mussels will bring you that final taste and salt of the sea.)
  4. Add the mussels and well distribute in the pan. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook the mussels until the all open. About 10 mins.
  5. Serve the mussels  along with all the tomato sauce in bowls or serve family right out of the cooking dish. Serve with bread. Discard any muscles that don’t open.