CITY OF TWO SEAS
Ditalini pasta with mussels and beans
Emiko Davies delves into Italian family recipes in her new book Tortellini at Midnight.
“This is a hearty and always satisfying combination: plump mussels from Taranto’s port and earthy, creamy legumes in a flavourful, fragrant broth,” says Davies. “The brothy sauce makes this something halfway between a pasta and a soup. Instead of borlotti beans, you can also use cannellini beans.” Pictured p116.
1 kg mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
100 gm ditalini pasta (or other very small soup pasta) 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 1 garlic clove, finely chopped ½ onion, thinly sliced
125 ml dry white wine
1 large ripe tomato, chopped 200 gm drained canned borlotti beans 1 long red chilli (optional), finely chopped
½ cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Discard any mussels that are cracked or open and won’t close when gently tapped. To open the mussels, heat them in a wide, shallow frying pan over medium-high heat. Cover, and shake the pan occasionally to help the mussels move around (the ones on the bottom will find it harder to open fully than the ones on top). After about 1-2 minutes, check them and, with a pair of tongs, pull out the mussels that have opened and transfer these to a large bowl. Continue until all the mussels have opened (any that are still tightly shut can be discarded). 2 Strain the mussel liquid left in the pan – either using a very fine-mesh sieve or a regular sieve lined with a paper towel and set over a bowl – and pull out the meat from the shells (reserving some whole mussels to garnish). Discard the shells.
3 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, minus 1 minute of cooking time.
4 Heat the oil in a wide frying pan over low heat and fry the garlic and onion until the garlic is fragrant but not coloured (about 5 minutes). Pour in wine, increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Add the tomato and simmer for a further 5 minutes (if the tomato is not very ripe, cook for 10 minutes, and add a splash of water if the liquid is reducing too much).
5 Add the beans, the mussel meat and their liquid and season to taste (the mussel liquid can be quite salty). Add the chilli and some pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, then scatter with parsley.
6 Drain pasta (reserving some of the pasta water) and serve with the soupy sauce (add a splash of the pasta water if necessary) topped with the reserved whole mussels.