Mussels in spicy red sauce are an easy crowd-pleaser


This week's recipe is cheap and easy for any college student: mussels with spicy red sauce. (Gabriella Opaz/Creative Commons)

This week’s recipe is cheap and easy for any college student: mussels with spicy red sauce. (Gabriella Opaz/Creative Commons)

Mussels are one of my favorite dishes to make for friends because they look and taste impressive, but are deceptively easy and cheap. Two pounds of fresh mussels will run you about $5, and that is enough to serve three or four people. Unfortunately, Price Chopper usually doesn’t stock them, but they can be found at Big Y stores Mansfield or Tolland.

This recipe uses chopped fennel for aromatic flavor and a bit of red pepper flake for heat. Feel free to increase the amount of red pepper flake if you like your food spicy, but be careful—the heat builds with these. Be sure to buy some good hard-crust bread to serve these with. You’ll want something to soak up all the delicious sauce left in the bowl!


  • 2 lbs. fresh mussels
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • ½ cup dry white wine. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay all work—cheap is fine.
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, hand crushed with their juices
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt to taste


Clean the mussels. Scrub away dirt and remove any “beards”—the small furry bit that sometimes sticks out between the shell; pull hard on it to remove. If any mussels have opened, tap them on the counter a few times and discard if they don’t close within a few minutes. Discard any mussels with cracked or damaged shells.

Remove stalks from the fennel, saving a few sprigs for garnish. Slice the bulb in half and remove the tough core, then finely chop.

Thinly slice the shallots crosswise.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and add the fennel and shallot. Cook for 5 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to cook for another 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Let the wine reduce for a few minutes before stirring in the crushed tomatoes with their juices. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil.

Add the mussels and steam them for 4-6 minutes, covered, until they have opened. Discard any mussels that remain closed.

Toss the mussels with the sauce and serve in a large bowl with your favorite hard-crust bread. Garnish with fennel sprigs.

Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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