Spaghetti with Mussels and Saffron

Spaghetti con Cozze e Zafferano

Spaghetti with Mussels

Serves 4 to 6


The combination of shellfish with saffron and pasta has become quite popular in Italy. The saffron adds a rich color and a definite taste to the dish, while the chili pepper lifts the mood. Clams can be used instead of or in addition to the mussels. Rigatoni, penne, or linguine can take the place of spaghetti.

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely minced leek, thoroughly washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh red chili pepper or hot red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound spaghetti, spaghettini, or linguine

Put the water in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add the mussels and cover the skillet. Cook just until the mussels open. Transfer them to a bowl as they open. Line a strainer with paper towels, strain the liquid into a bowl, and stir in the saffron. Set aside. Detach the mussels from the shells, cut the mussels into 2 to 3 pieces, and place in a separate bowl.


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until lightly golden and soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and stir a few times. Add the reserved liquid with the saffron and the wine. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced a little more than half. Season with salt and chili pepper. Add the butter and parsley, and stir until the sauce has a medium-thick consistency. Add the mussels and stir them for a minute or so with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn the heat off.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook, uncovered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender but still a bit firm to the bite.

Drain the pasta and place in a large heated serving bowl. Add the mussels and all the sauce, and toss until everything is well combined. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.


Italy al Dente
The Glories of Italian Cooking
by Biba Caggiano
Photographs by Ellen Silverman
William Morrow & Company, Inc.
1998, Hardcover, US $25.00
Recipes & photos reprinted by permission


Italy al Dente


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This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007

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