Ditalini pasta with mussels and beans
This is a delicious, hearty combination of plump mussels and earthy, creamy legumes in a flavourful broth.
The sauce makes this something halfway between a pasta dish and a soup, and it’s always served with a spoon. You can use cannellini beans instead of borlotti beans, or even potatoes, peeled, diced into 1cm cubes and boiled with the pasta.
1kg live mussels in their shells, beards and any exterior grit removed 240g ditalini pasta (or any other very small soup pasta) 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
plus extra for drizzling 1 garlic clove, finely chopped ½ onion, thinly sliced
125ml dry white wine
1 large ripe tomato, diced 200g cooked borlotti beans,
Salt and ground pepper
1 hot red chilli, finely
Handful of flat-leaf parsley
leaves, finely chopped
1 Check over the mussels and discard any that are cracked or open. Clean well in fresh water and, if necessary, scrub with steel wool. To cook the mussels, heat them in a wide, shallow, dry frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cover, shaking the pan occasionally. After about 1-2min, remove from the heat and then transfer to a large bowl (discard any that are still tightly shut).
2 Strain the precious mussel liquid left in the pan – either using a very fine-mesh sieve or a regular sieve lined with a paper towel – into a bowl. Pull out the meat from the shells (reserving some whole mussels to garnish), discarding the shells.
3 In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet (minus 1min of cooking time).
4 Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan over a low heat and gently fry the garlic and onion for about 5min, until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling but not coloured. Pour in the wine and increase the heat to medium. Add the tomato and simmer for a further 5min.
5 Add the beans, the mussel meat and liquid and taste for seasoning (it is important to do this after you add the liquid from the mussels as it can be quite salty). Add the chilli, if using, and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2min, then scatter over the parsley as you take it off the heat.
6 Drain the pasta (reserving some of the cooking liquid if you feel you didn’t have enough mussel cooking liquid) and serve with the rather soupy sauce (add a splash of the pasta cooking liquid if necessary) of mussels and beans and a drizzle of olive oil.