Mussel gratin a really quick and easy appetizer (cleaning the mussels apart!) that you can prepare in ten minutes after the arrival of your guests. Serve hot as soon as they’re ready, and let your guests sample them while you finish preparing lunch or dinner. They act as a real ‘apristomaco’ (‘stomach opener’) and will enchant everyone who tries them. And since the mussels are well-cooked, you can also give them to children at home with an easy conscience. So, to work!
extra virgin olive oil
Serves 1 person
Wash the mussels (if necessary, scrubbing the shells), then heat them in a saucepan until they open. Then remove the upper part of the shell from each of the mussels. Arrange them in a baking tray with the mussel side up and sprinkle over a garlic, parsley, and breadcrumb mixture; pour a little olive oil onto each mussel and put in a hot oven (200 °C) to brown slightly – for about 10 minutes.
Do not open the mussels when raw! If you do you risk inadvertently giving your guests a nasty case of food poisoning. Rely, rather, on the traditional method of cooking in a saucepan: a good blast of heat will cook the mussels and at the same time all the healthy ones will open; any that do not should be discarded.
Mussels are known as ‘cozze’ or ‘mitili’ in Italian, but depending on the region in which they are harvested they may have other names: thus there are ‘peoci’ in Venice, ‘datteri neri’ in Tuscany, or ‘di muscoli’ in the northwest.