Mussel bundles
When this dish arrives to the table, everybody smiles: mussels are so appetizing and mouthwatering. The mussels are tuffed with a mixture made of bread, soaked in advance in the mussels’ liquid, together with parsley, basil and a good amount of Grana Padano Riserva that gives an extraordinary flavor.


 
Serves
4/6 people
Variety
Soups
Season
Spring/Summer
Type
Fish
Francesca D'Orazio
Ingredients
500 g of mussels, cleaned
200 g of country style bread, crust removed 
60 g of Grana Padano Riserva, grated
1 red / green bell pepper
1 garlic clove
2 spring onions
8 g of parsley
5 g of basil leaves 
750 ml tomato purée 
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
To serve: 4-6 slices of country style bread, seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, arranged on a baking tray and toasted for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 160 °C. Few sea asparagus (samphire)
 
Preparation
Put the mussels in a large pan over a high heat for about 5 minutes covered with a lid to let them open.
Remove the mussels from the pan (without removing from their shells). Strain the cooking liquid left in the pan (keeping a glass of liquid aside).  
Soak the bread in the remaining liquid, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and basil. 
Squeeze the bread to remove the excess of water, transfer to a bowl, add the aromatic herbs, and grated Grana Padano. Salt to taste and mix well.
Fill each mussel with the bread mixture, tie the shells with a kitchen twine, keeping them half-opened.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the spring onion (cut into 4 pieces) and garlic (crushed), the bell pepper (cut into large pieces) and the glass of reserved mussel cooking liquid kept aside. Heat over a gentle heat, and cook for 10 minutes, then add the tomato purée, continue cooking 7-8 minutes longer. The result is a not to thick, aromatic sauce. 
Add the stuffed mussels, cover the pan and cook them for about 10 minutes.
Garnish with sea asparagus (samphire), blanched, if available. 
Serve them with toasted bread.
Mussels: how to choose, clean, open them
  •  When buying mussels, the shells must be tightly closed, without any chipping, color should be bright. When holding in your hand, mussels, if fresh, they are quite heavy.
  • It’s always better ask if the mussels have been cleaned (many supermarkets have a special machine), in which case you should cook them as soon as possible. 
  • Always check on the package if labelled, generally it indicates the origin of the mussels, and therefore the quality and harvesting date.
  • Clean only perfectly closed and intact mussels. Discard those broken, open or semi-opened, as they are dead. 
  • Using a knife (or your hands), remove the fine thread from each mussel, pulling it away, and tearing it away with a single move. Brush them well or scrape them with a clean scouring kitchen pad. Rinse them under running water.
  • To open them: put cleaned mussels in a large pan, close with the lid and cook until they are open. Discard which are not opened. 
  • Strain and filter the liquid if the recipe calls for it or keep it for other fish-based preparations
Tips for the table
Flowers always adorn and make our table pleasant. If flowers are not available, many other elements can substitute them.
During summer, it’s very simple, just choose the most beautiful vegetables and arrange them in a bowl or place them on a twisted kitchen towel, as it would resemble a basket.
Which vegetables? Beautiful cherry tomatoes, together with peppers, eggplants, or zucchini, green beans; borlotti beans as well, kept in their pod: their beautiful nuances may give to your composition a spectacular touch. 
A good amount of tomato varieties garnished with bunches of basil can be a good solution.
Parsley is also a very good choice, it is odorless and will be a perfect fit  on our table.
 If we have a garden or a terrace, we can use green leaves picked here and there. Make sure they haven’t been treated and they are not toxic (remember, never on the table oleander, or ivy).
Better to avoid scented plants, such as lavender as their scent would distract from the appetizing smell of our delicacies!
One more idea: use a good quantity of lemons, well washed, and arranged with their leaves (well washed and brushed. In case we want a more shiny aspect just dub them with an oiled piece of paper towels): they will render your table colorful and joyful.
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