Preparing mussels at home has always intimidated me.  I’m not exactly sure why; I’ve done pretty well at my first attempts at Beef Wellington and Risotto Tortes, so why would the thought of preparing mussels at home frighten me?

Well, foodborne illness, for one.  Overcooking them, for another.  A laundry list of potential failures threatened my never-attempted mussels for years and years.

Until I swallowed my fears and went for it anyway.  On New Year’s Eve 2011.  And then again on New Years Day 2012.

Dare I say that now I’m slightly addicted?

To help clear the air about how to handle mussels and remove the fear, there are really only a few things you need to know before you start:

  • Scrub the mussels well under running cold water to remove any barnacles, etc.  A very stiff cleaning brush comes in handy for this.
  • Tap on any mussels that are open (they responded quicker/more fervently using the back of the cleaning brush), and if they don’t close, discard them.
  • Any mussel with a broken shell should be tossed out.
  • Each mussel has a beard which you can find sticking out of the side.  Pull this out in a back and forth wiggling motion to ensure you get it all off.


  • Once the mussels are cooked, the shells should be open.  Any mussels that are close at this point should not be eaten.

I think the most important step to note is to not soak the mussels in water, and to not *accidentally* turn the tap water to warm and leave them for any amount of time in slightly tepid water.  Because that might cause you to freak out and think you ruined your *entire* New Years Eve dinner when they all open and you think they’ve all gone belly up.

Fear not, though!

One rather strong rap on the shell with the back of the cleaning brush will quickly have those mussels closing up shop and you can then proceed to make this meal.

Which is delicious, by the way.  And quick!

For the Pappardelle:
  • 1 large free-range or organic egg per person.  I used 2 and we ended up with lots of leftovers
  • 100 grams flour per person, plus extra for dusting
  • Sea salt

For the Mussels:

  • 2 lb. mussels (my local Central Market had Prince Edward Island mussels)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided in 2 Tbsp amounts
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked chorizo
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • healthy pinch saffron threads dissolved in 3 Tbsp hot water
  • small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of thyme


For the Pappardelle:

Crack the eggs into a food processor and add the flour.  Pulse frequently and listen for the sound changing to a rumble – this means the dough is coming together nicely.
When the dough is the consistence of bread crumbs, turn the power off and test the consistency by pinching the dough.  If it’s a bit sticky, add a little more flour and pulse again.
Tip the dough mixture onto a floured surface and shape it into a ball using your hands.  Give it a little knead until smooth, then divide your dough into 2 equal parts.  Start on the thickest setting of your pasta machine and run the first bit of dough through 4 or 5 times, moving the rollers closer together each time until the pasta is silky, smooth, and about as thick as a CD.


Flour your finished sheet generously, then fold it up and cut across into 1/2-inch strips. Gather all the slices together and toss them through your fingers, with a little flour, to open them up and make your pile of pappardelle.  Place to 1 side and repeat with the rest of the dough.

When ready to serve the mussels, add the pasta to heavily salted boiling water, and remove when cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

For the Mussels:

Over medium heat, heat the olive oil and melt the butter.  When shimmering, saute the shallots and garlic until translucent.

Add the sliced mushrooms and sprigs of thyme along with the diced smoked chorizo.

After the mushrooms have reduced in size a bit, add the tomatoes.

Move the pan off of the heat and carefully deglaze the pan with a white wine you like to drink (I used a Honig Sauv Blanc).  Once the wine has been added, move the pan back onto the heat.

Dissolve a hefty pinch saffron threads in a few Tbsp warm water, and add that. Bring everything to a boil.

Add the cleaned and de-bearded mussels (this is what a beard looks like), cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.

Steam until the mussels open, about 5-8 minutes.


Remove the mussels from their shells once they’ve been cooked through and set aside in a separate bowl.  We found it was easiest to use a small spoon for this task.  And gloves.  Definitely use gloves because those puppies will be HOT!

Reduce the sauce about 7-10 minutes until a slightly thicker consistency.  Add the mussels back to the broth.

Remove the pan from the heat, fish out the sprigs of thyme and finish with the remaining butter.

Serve atop the fresh pappardelle with a garnish of minced parsley.