Cozze con Fagiole
Updated: Apr 6
"People are like mussels. You can put them in a vat of boiling water, and some of them will pop open immediately. Some of them will have to float around in the water for a bit, then they'll slowly release. Others never open up at all, no matter what sort of hot water they're in."
Rhian J. Martin (2017)
This dish is straight out of "Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey". It's a favourite book of mine and was foundational in my seafood cookery repertoire. I vividly remember going out for my lunch break and buying this book not long after it was published, having seen several of the episodes from the TV series. I also recall the sense of excitement that came from thumbing through the pages and finding so many recipes I wanted to try.
The recipe itself is from the school of seafood-with-beans that I described in Alubias Blancas con Almejas except that this time, instead of clams shown some Spanish attention, it is mussels given the Italian treatment. There is something completely satisfying in eating a bowl of beans cooked in a tasty sauce flavoured with the sweet-salty contribution of shellfish, and finished with herbs.
Eating this is a spoon, fork and hunk-of-bread job.
This is one of those recipes where you really ought to use dried beans and I have written in the Notes how to go about this. However, here I have used tinned beans because it makes the dish so quick to cook, so it is likely to be made all that more often. To help the sauce become creamy I have added a little of the juice from the tin of beans, but this is not essential.
Bread to serve is compulsory but a salad as well is ideal.
Cozze con Fagiole
Ingredients (Serves 2)
500g mussels, cleaned
2 tbsp white wine
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 large or two small (ideally plum) tomatoes, chopped 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained but juice reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Pour the wine into a saucepan large enough to take the mussels and for which you have a lid. Put the lid on and bring the wine to the boil. Add the mussels to the pan, replace the lid and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, giving the pan the occasional shake, until the mussels have just opened. Drain the mussels through a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquor and, when they are cool enough to handle, remove the meats from the shells except for a few that are to be used for presentation.
Put the chopped garlic and the olive oil in a pan and turn on the heat. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes soften. Add 75ml of the mussel cooking liquor, the beans and 2-3 tbsp of the juice reserved from the tin of beans and continue to simmer until the sauce has reduced and become creamy - 10 mins or so. Season to taste with salt (you probably won't need any), pepper and a squeeze or two of lemon juice.
Add both the shelled and unshelled mussels to the pan, cover with the lid and cook gently for a minute or so, just to warm the mussels through. Stir in the chopped parsley, add an extra drizzle of olive oil and take to the table to serve straight from the pan.
Using dried beans: Soak 125g dried cannellini beans in cold water overnight. Drain and return to the pan with a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and a peeled garlic clove. Cover with water to an inch or two's level higher than the beans, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour, skimming as necessary, until the beans are soft. Turn up the heat and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated, then remove the bay leaf, thyme sprig and garlic clove.
"Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey", Rick Stein (1999), pp. 110: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Seafood-Odyssey-Stein/dp/0563551860
"Alubias Blancas con Almejas", Bute Street Seafoodie