Growing up, we spent a lot of time with our grandmothers. Since our Nana lived a few hours away, we spent most of our school and summer breaks with her. We didn’t realize it back then, but every moment we shared with her was leading us down the path to where we are today. The heart she put into making recipes showed us that food is more than just for sustenance; it’s an act of love. With that in mind, today, we’re sharing part of Nana’s Christmas Eve meal! Her menu is inspired by the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes, which traditionally involves baccalà (salt cod), frutti di mare (shellfish), capitone (eel), calamari (squid), scungilli (conch meat) and vongole (clams). Over the years, she’s crafted her own version of this, which always involves her famous Mussels Recipe with Red Sauce.
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The Secret to Making Nana’s Mussels Recipe
Seafood is best when fresh (of course!), so where you purchase your mussels matters. Finding a reputable fish market or getting to know your neighborhood grocery store’s fish or meat department manager will help you get comfortable asking questions about the seafood you’re buying. Mussels should smell fresh and salty, like the sea. Finally, any mussels that have shells that are opened before cooking should be tossed.
Preparing Nana’s Red Sauce
#HostfulHack: Prepare the red sauce a day or two in advance to save on prep time the day of serving. Allow sauce to cool down in the pot and when at room temperature, transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use. This sauce will keep 10 days in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.
What You Need To Make This Mussels Recipe
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The Decorative Serveware
When serving loved ones, we always like to choose serveware that accentuates the season in a subtle way. For the holiday season, we love muted hues of green and a pop of gold for a bit of elegance. Consider texture, as well, with distressed or hammered finishes offer visual interest on your tablescape design.
Featured Items: Recycled Glass Bowl in Olive Green and Hammered Gold Bowl
How To Prepare Your Mussels and Red Sauce
The Red Sauce
The best part about this sauce is that you can make it a day ahead of your gathering. Prepare this sauce and then place it in an air-tight container in your refrigerator to have one less thing to do the day guests arrive.
To begin, heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium pot. Add garlic and sauté until golden, being careful not to burn. As the garlic browns, add crushed tomatoes. Rinse can of tomatoes and fill halfway full of water, pouring contents over tomatoes. Add the remaining seasonings, except fresh basil. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer about 15 – 20 minutes. Finally, remove sauce pot from heat and add fresh basil. If you’re not immediately serving the sauce, wait to add fresh basil.
Nana’s Red Sauce
- large sauce pan
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp dry oregano
- 1/4 tsp dry basil
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves
- In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, being careful not to burn. As the garlic browns, add crushed tomatoes. Rinse can and fill halfway full of water. Pour over tomatoes. Add the remaining seasonings, except fresh basil. Stir and reduce heat to low.
- Cover and let simmer about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add fresh basil.
Begin by cleaning and preparing the mussels. Then, prepare the red sauce (or remove from refrigerator is you’ve prepared it ahead of time!). Pour red sauce and white wine into a pot and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover and cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir once gently. Continue to cook until the mussels are completely open and firmly cooked, about 4 minutes more.
While mussels are cooking, saute shallots and garlic in butter in a saucepan until soft. Remove the pot of mussels from the heat and transfer the mussels gently from the pot to a large bowl with a wire mesh skimmer. Strain sauce from pot into saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the mussels and add parsley.
Serve immediately with fresh lemon slices.
- large sauce pot
- 3 lbs medium mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed and drained
- 2 c Nana's red sauce
- 1 c white wine
- 1/4 c shallots, minced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped
- lemon slices, for garnish
- Clean and prepare the mussels.
- Prepare the red sauce.
- Pour red sauce and white wine into a pot and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover and cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir once gently. Continue to cook until the mussels are completely open and firmly cooked, about 4 minutes more.
- While mussels are cooking, saute shallots and garlic in butter in a saucepan until soft.
- Remove the pot of mussels from the heat and transfer the mussels gently from the pot to a large bowl with a wire mesh skimmer.
- Strain sauce from pot into saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or 2. Pour the sauce over the mussels and add parsley.
- Serve immediately with fresh lemon slices.
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