I am no fan of grocery shopping. I go to the market at least 4 times a week and sometimes almost every day. It is probably one of the least fun tasks as a chef, but the story changes completely when I go grocery shopping for myself. Last Sunday, I was able to casually stroll the stalls of the farmers market and pick out what I wanted to have for dinner that night. I'll admit, it was actually enjoyable. I could actually appreciate all of the beautiful produce rather than rushing to buy everything off my list. Since we are in the heat of summer, tomatoes were everywhere and I couldn't help but buy a couple of basket fulls of the beauties. The first meal to make? Mussels in spicy tomato sauce, homemade with fresh tomatoes of course!
Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 ½ lb tomatoes chopped
- ¼ cup sherry cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- salt and pepper
- 2 lb mussels cleaned and debearded
- 2 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- crusty bread for serving
- Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a saucepot over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the tomatoes, sherry, oregano, and red chili flakes to the same pot. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
- Add the mussels to the sauce, cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes or until the shells open. Remove the mussels and place in a bowl.
- Add the butter and fresh basil to the tomato sauce, stirring until the butter has melted. Adjust the seasoning once again with salt and pepper. Ladle the sauce on the mussels and sprinkle grated parmesan on top. Serve with crusty bread.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I once read in a cookbook that regardless of whether or not tomatoes are in season, you should always skip the canned tomatoes when making tomato sauce. I haven't tested that theory but I will admit, tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes is just amazing. Be sure to make extra sauce since you never know when you'll need tomato sauce. If you love it as much as I do, it'll be gone in seconds. It's so addictingly good.
Normally when you want a smooth tomato sauce, you have to peel the skins. I wanted some texture to go with the mussels so I decided to skip the tedious step. Instead, chop the tomatoes and cook it in the garlic-infused oil with sherry, oregano, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper. You can always add more red chili flakes if you're feeling especially spicy.
Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Make sure the flame is on low, the sauce should barely be bubbling. Once the sauce is ready, season it with salt and pepper then add the mussels. Cover the pot and continue to cook until the mussels open their shells.
Finish the dish with butter (butter makes everything better) and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serving these mussels in spicy tomato sauce with a side of crusty bread is a must. The sauce is so good you'll want to soak up every last bite with some bread. It's so good. I mean it.
Since you're now a pro at making homemade tomato sauce, you might want to try making yellow tomato sauce for this yellow margherita pizza. A similar process with the same delicious results.
For more seafood inspiration check out this crispy saffron halibut with chorizo and potatoes!