Spaghetti with Mussels in a Lemon-Garlic-Wine Sauce

Mussels in Lemon-Garlic-Wine Sauce
I was in Costco the other day and purchased, as one does at Costco, a five and a half pound bag of mussels. This seemed like a good idea as the problem—how to dispose of five and a half pounds of mussels—is one that can only have delicious solutions. I cooked half of them the evening of purchase: I made a quick tomato-garlic sauce with sliced onions and tossed the mussels in for the last five minutes while the pasta was cooking. It turned out quite well and in an unexpected turn of events both boys asked to try the mussels and quite liked them. And so tonight I reversed course on my original plan for the second half of the bag, which had been to improvise a South Indian style spicy seafood stew with coconut milk, and went back to the pasta pot. I didn’t have any good canned tomatoes at hand, however, and so threw this together instead with stuff that was in the fridge and pantry. It came out quite well, if I do say so myself, and the boys gave it the thumbs up too. So there you have it: two small children with dubious taste have endorsed this dish. I’m throwing this recipe up here so I can remember what I did if they ask for it again.


  • 2.5 lbs of mussels
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 anchovies, rinsed
  • Capers, 2-3 tblspns
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 tblspns minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lb spaghetti


  1. Add the garlic to a large, deep pan with a healthy pour of olive oil and turn the heat on to medium.
  2. As the garlic begins to turn a pale gold (as Marcella Hazan would say) add the sliced onion, anchovies and salt.
  3. Let the onions wilt completely and start to caramelize and then add the white wine and raise to a boil. Let the wine evaporate almost entirely.
  4. Grind a lot of black pepper over and add the capers and lemon juice and mix in thoroughly.
  5. Once the sauce begins to bubble again add the mussels to the pan, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat or till the mussels have completely opened up.
  6. Add a ladleful of the pasta water and shake the pan.
  7. Throw the parsely over and toss as best as you can with freshly cooked pasta and another big slug of olive oil.

Mussels in Lemon-Garlic-Wine Sauce


  1. I might add more lemon juice next time.
  2. If the boys weren’t going to be eating this I would have added 3-4 broken up dried red chillies with the garlic as well.
  3. Linguine would probably be better but spaghetti is what I had. Whatever you use, should you make this, try to time it so that the pasta and sauce are ready at the same time.
  4. I’m telling myself that boiling the wine away means that I did not feed my children a large amount of alcohol at dinner.
  5. If you find yourself with a normal  1 lb bag of mussels don’t scale the rest of the recipe down. The extra mussels are just a delicious bonus here.
  6. These were farmed mussels from Canada. I’m really hoping these are not disastrous for the environment as they were really pretty good.

4 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Mussels in a Lemon-Garlic-Wine Sauce

  1. Annoying Sir:

    I’ve always been curious about how the bagged frozen mussels would turn out, but have been reluctant to try them – were yours frozen? If so, they seem to have turned out fine.

    This is one the missus’ favorite dishes (one of mine too), except with clams (harder to find fresh, and pricey, whereas I’ve seen better availability of frozen mussels.)

    I believe most farmed shellfish, especially if from Canada or the US, is pretty high quality and quite eco-friendly. I stay far away from any farmed shellfish from Asia. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to find anything but, except at high-end TC markets. (Whole Foods is careful about its seafood offering, and of course there’s our own Coastal Seafoods)


  2. Those Costco mussels are lovely, from Prince Edward Island and usually pretty clean. I mostly steam them with shallots, white wine and saffron. Serve them with Home made French fries. Mmmm, Costco is calling.


  3. Pingback: 7 Lemon Garlic Pasta recipe you definitely need to try | Recipetiffany

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