Updated: Jul 30, 2021
This past weekend I decided to try a new recipe with my No MaTer Marinara Sauce: Mussels Marinara! (You can find this recipe below or in the Recipes drop down)
I've never made this recipe before, even with normal tomato marinara sauce, so it was an adventure. Of course, there had to be witnesses, so we invited our neighbor over to enjoy this experiment with us. He and his wife have been part of this journey for some time. They were the first tasters of the lasagna made with No MaTer Marinara Sauce actually. His wife is out of town so it was just him holding down the fort.
Now, I must preface that meal planning is not one of my strengths. This is most difficult because the nearest store is 30 minutes away. It usually means that we end up getting creative with our dinner plans. We definitely keep a lot of canned goods, but frozen proteins and fresh fruits and veggies are a must.
I found a recipe online: https://stripedspatula.com/pasta-with-mussels/
Made my list (I love lists, they keep me sane), got all organized, and hit the road to go to the store!
Mussels were obviously a must. The recipe called for 2 lbs, but I didn't want to take any chances so we bought two bags (almost 4 lbs). You never know with muscles...especially in land-locked Colorado. We've had to throw away a few before that were dead.
Next was the deli for the pancetta. I told them 4 oz, but they gave me 6 oz. Again, more is better right?
We chose linguine instead of spaghetti noodles.
I rarely do fresh herbs, I'm really just too lazy for it. And as you can see from the photo, I'm not great at adding garnishes to my dishes. I'm in too much of a rush to get to the tasting! But, for those who are more inclined, I'm sure it is a superb idea!
It has been a long while since we bought and prepped mussels. So we immediately put them in the sink in some water to soak until we were ready for them (THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!).
30 minutes later, we were ready to start cleaning and prepping the mussels...
For those of you who have cooked mussels before, you already know: Yup, we killed a lot of them by this mistake.
As a warning to all, do not put your mussels in tap water to soak. It doesn't end well :(
The thing with mussels is:
1 - if they're open when you clean them and don't close when you tap them, they're dead and not good to cook and eat
2 - if they're not open after you have cooked them, then they're dead and not good to eat
My hubs and I were just amazed at how many we were having to throw away. It was very confusing. Only after we were done cleaning and prepping did we look it up and realize that this was 100% our fault and avoidable.
But, remember my paranoia about "more is better"? It paid off! Although we wasted a lot of mussels with our mistake, we still had plenty for dinner. As disheartening as it is to see money in the trash bin, we had to move on and hopefully we'll remember next time.
As I'm prepping the pancetta the house is smelling amazing! Our neighbor arrives and he brought us some lovely wine to go with our dinner. We fancy the Dreaming Tree brand.
That's when the smoke detector throws a fit. There is one smoke detector that is beside the kitchen and picks up the slightest trace of smoke when cooking. Normally we remember to turn on the fan to vent it, but we did not and the smoke detector voiced its concern over my cooking. (I'm not nearly as hurt about this now as I was when we first moved in)
Chaos! Well, life is always a bit crazy and you just have to roll with it. The hubs gets the step ladder and disconnects the smoke detector. I keep cooking the pancetta, though I can no longer hear. And our neighbor is chuckling at the show. (Our dog is hiding in the bedroom and our cat ran to the basement)
Despite these events, the meal turned out beautifully! Served with fresh sourdough bread.
I did alter the recipe (link above) slightly, but overall kept to the original recipe.
We had vanilla and chocolate layered cream pie (pic below) for dessert.
Of course, it makes a lot of pasta, so we used the leftover past a couple days later and made Chicken Parmesan (pic below).
Ingredients * 3 pounds fresh mussels (see note about prepping mussels)
* 16 ounces linguine
* 6 ounces diced pancetta
* 2 jars No MaTer Marinara Sauce
* 1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
* chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
Instructions * Cook pasta in salted, boiling water until "al dente." Drain.
* While pasta is cooking, cook pancetta in olive oil in a large, wide pan until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of oil, drain it off so that you have about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
* Add your jars of No MaTer Marinara sauce and 1/2 cup chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
* Add mussels and toss to coat them in the sauce. Cover and simmer for 7-9 minutes, until the mussels' shells have opened. Start checking the mussels around 5 minutes, and use tongs to remove the open mussels to a bowl while the others continue to cook. Discard any mussels that do not open.
* When all the mussels are cooked and removed from the pan. Stir pancetta back into the sauce and toss with the pasta.
* Nestle mussels into the pasta, serve sprinkled with fresh parsley if you so choose.
To prep mussels...
Do NOT soak in tap water, it will kill them.
Instead, make sure that there are holes in the container that the mussels are in and place them in the fridge until you are ready to prep them.
To prep the mussels, scrub each one under a stream of water to remove dirt. Pull out the "beard" as well. If the mussel is open already, tap it on the counter a few times and set aside. See if it closes on its own. If not, discard.
Vanilla and chocolate layered cream pie
Chicken Parmesan made using the leftover pasta from the Mussels Marinara