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Spaghetti and Mussels with Tomatoes and Basil

Briny mussels, sweet tomatoes and pungent basil make a perfect accent for pasta. Round out the meal with a simple salad. Since the dish is so lean, you can indulge in dessert—try vanilla gelato with toasted coconut and anisette.

Ingredients:

  • Coarse kosher salt, to taste 
  • 6 oz. spaghetti, preferably multigrain  
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil  
  • 1 large shallot, minced 
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 
  • 1 lb. mussels 
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine  
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest  
  • 3/4 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • 1/2 cup slivered fresh basil 
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and sauté until the shallot is almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mussels, wine and lemon zest. Cover the pan and cook until the mussel shells begin to open, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed large shallow bowl. Pour the mussels and sauce over the pasta. Add the basil and the extra-virgin olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Quick Tips: The sauce takes such little time to prepare that it can be made while the pasta cooks. The mussel mixture would be equally delicious served in shallow bowls accompanied by crusty bread, rather than over pasta, to soak up the juices. For an extra-special touch, brush the bread with olive oil and then grill or broil until golden and crunchy on the edges.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast, by Kristine Kidd (Williams-Sonoma, 2011).