Stuffed mussels with tomato sauce - Pic Kim Lightbody

TV Chef Gennaro Contaldo says: "Because I lived by the sea, mussels were part of my life, and as a child I would pick bucketfuls of them during the cooler autumn months."
"When we had larger mussels, my father would often make this dish by removing the mussels from their shells, mixing them with stale bread, garlic and parsley and then stuffing the shells with this mixture,"he adds.

Contaldo says: "Using mussels in this way made an unusual, tasty dish and also meant they would go further to feed a large family."

Serves 4

Ingredients

12 large mussels

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 anchovy fillets

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced lengthways

½ small red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

20 capers

3 tbsp white wine

A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus a few sprigs to garnish

​100 g  stale bread, cut into small cubes 

For the sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ small onion, very finely diced

½ tsp dried oregano

2 large green olives, pitted and sliced

​400 g tinned chopped tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Clean the mussels in plenty of cold water, scrubbing them well and pulling off the beards. 

Place in a pan, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes until the shells open. Remove from the heat and discard any mussels that are still closed. 

Remove the flesh from the shells and any liquid and place in a bowl (if necessary, open up the shells a little more, taking care to keep the shells intact). 

Keep the empty shells for later. 

Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon until they have almost dissolved into the oil. 

Add the garlic, chilli if using, and capers. Once the garlic turns golden, stir in the mussels, reserving their liquid for later. 

Heat the mussels through, then add the wine and simmer gently for 1 minute. 

Pour in the liquid from the mussels and stir in the parsley. 

Remove from the heat, mix in the bread cubes, then leave to cool. 

When the mixture has cooled, place it on a chopping board and chop quite finely with a sharp knife. 

Transfer to a bowl and mix well until you get a mushy consistency.

Dry the mussel shells and generously fill one half of each shell with the mussel mixture. 

Close the shell, removing any excess filling that escapes, and wrap some raffia around the middle of the shell, tying it round a few times until nice and tight, so the shell cannot open (you could use string, but I think raffia looks much nicer). 

Trim off any excess raffia and put the filled shells to one side.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and, as soon as it begins to fry, add the oregano, olives and tomatoes. 

Season with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mussels to the sauce, cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes, turning the mussels over halfway through the cooking time. 

Stir from time to time and, if necessary, add some water to prevent the sauce becoming too dry. 

Put the filled mussel shells on individual plates, pour a little sauce over and garnish with a sprig of parsley. 

Serve immediately and remember to provide finger bowls for your guests.

Recipe from Gennaro’s Passione: The Classic Italian Cookery Book