The beauty of cooking with mussels these days is that farm-raised mussels are widely available. Already washed and trimmed, they make repeated cleanings a thing of the past.
Crisp, clean but fruity wines pair well with the freshness of this dish, such as Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, South Africa or New Zealand; recommended producers include Terrunyo (Chile), Neil Ellis (S. Africa) and Cloudy Bay (NZ).
For the sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
12 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
½ tablespoon chopped fresh basil
For the mussels
4 pounds mussels
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups dry unoaked white wine
Crusty bread, for serving
To make the tomato sauce: heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until soft and translucent. Add all the tomatoes and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they have “melted.” Break them up with a spoon if necessary. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Keep the sauce warm.
To steam the mussels: Sort through the mussels, discarding any that are open or that do not close when you tap them. Wash and remove the stringy beard from any that need it.
Heat the oil and butter in a large pot set over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until translucent and soft. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.
Add the mussels, cover the pot tightly, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until all the mussels are open. Discard any that do not open. Remove the mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return the steaming liquid to the heat and cook until syrupy and reduced in volume.
Return the tomato sauce to the heat and stir in the mussels’ cooking liquid and the parsley, oregano, and basil. Add the mussels to the sauce and stir gently. Serve hot, with crusty bread.