Recipe: Mussels in Wine and Red Sauce 

This recipe is part soup, part sauce, and complete deliciousness. 

By: Francesca Montillo

Last September, I had the privilege of leading a delicious food and wine tour of Puglia. As a native of Calabria, Puglia is “my neighbor,” and I have always been drawn to this region’s whitewashed homes, quaint streets, and delicious and spicy cuisine.

The group was excited about being in this region, which for many years remained undiscovered, but thanks to tourism efforts, is now gaining popularity.

Famous for sun, sand, and sea, this region 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 costs of the ingredients used. This recipe is part soup, part sauce, and complete deliciousness.  

This is the type of dish I am drawn to, as the weather turns cooler and the body craves the warmth that a dish like this provides. While perfectly acceptable to eat these as they are, I enjoy cooking some pasta, especially long pasta such as spaghetti, and use the sauce to dress it.

Together, they provide a full and satiating meal.   


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided  

4 garlic cloves, minced, divided 

¾ cup dry white wine 

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean and beard removed 

1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes  

Red pepper flakes  


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. 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.
  2. 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 tomato sauce and the broth from the mussels and cook for 10 minutes.  
  3. Add the mussels, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and simmer, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.  

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