Mussels in Wine and Red Sauce

It’s Lenten season, and for all those observing the upcoming Easter holiday, Fridays will be devoted to abstaining from eating meat and most likely enjoying seafood dinners. Growing up in Italy, seafood was often served on Fridays as a general rule throughout the year, but during Lent, however, it was a must to eat seafood. We would go to the local outdoor market and purchase freshly caught seafood. Being raised in Calabria, neighboring regions, such as Puglia and Sicily, frequently influenced our cuisine. Mussels in red wine, or Cozze alla Tarantina, is a traditional dish from the area of Puglia, specifically from the city of Taranto. Famous for sun, sand, and sea, the region of Puglia is abundant in seafood, thanks to its location surrounded by oceans. Recipes from Puglia, like this one, are spicy, rustic, and adored for their simplicity. This recipe was once considered part of the cucina povera, or “poor man’s cooking” concept. Not so today, as a result of increased ingredients’ costs. This recipe is part soup, part sauce, and complete deliciousness.

This dish is great because it comes together quickly in less than 30 minutes. It’s gluten-free for those following a GF diet, and it’s also dairy-free. The prep time is 10 minutes at most, and as with many seafood dishes, it cooks super fast, in 15 – 20 minutes max. This recipe yields four servings, but you can easily adjust up or down. Turn this recipe into a two-course meal by cooking some pasta and dressing it with the sauce from the mussels.

This recipe and image comes from my very first cookbook: The Five Ingredient Italian Cookbook. Get your copy here, if you don’t already have it!

Mussels in Wine and Red Sauce


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
¾ cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean and beard removed
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. In a medium pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the garlic, and heat it for 1 minute.
  2. Add the white wine and mussels, mix well, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mussels open up. Discard any mussels that do not open. Strain the mussels, reserving the liquid.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil and garlic. Heat the oil and garlic, and then add the crushed tomatoes and the broth from the mussels and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the mussels, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the sauce and simmer, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.

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What to Pack for Italy

Cosa Mettere in Valigia per l'Italia

Everyone is always asking me what they should pack for Italy,
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