Mussels in Spicy Red Sauce

I love this dish, which is often called "Mussels Fra Diavolo", because my Italian Grandmother made it often, especially around the holidays[. The lusty combination of mussels and spicy red sauce is irresistible. It's Italian-American comfort food. Forget about serving this with pasta, you absolutely must have a loaf of crusty, chewy Italian or French bread to dip in the sauce. Make sure to put an empty bowl on the table to accommodate the shells. For equipment you will need a large (10 to 12 inch) high sided saute pan (sauteuse) or a 6 to 6 quart pot with a tight fitting lid, a large spoon, and a Chinese wire mesh skimmer or slotted spoon. Red Sauce: I know my red sauce. My credentials: I grew up at the Jersey Shore, I had an Italian grandmother and I worked as a cook at Marenzi Restaurant in North Beach, San Francisco, back in the 1970's. This recipe is one for you to keep. My Napolitano red sauce is a great building block to making all sorts of dishes. It can be used to for a quick pasta dinner or for simmering fresh squash and/or bell peppers and onion. You can also use this red sauce as a base to make a "fra diavolo" with mussels, lobster or other sea food, even with leftovers and serve with rice or pasta. The most important concept in making this sauce is to really brown (caramelize) the onions and carrots, creating a natural sweetness that balances with the acidic tomatoes. For equipment you will need a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, and a wooden spoon.]

4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups Red Sauce or Fra Diavlo Sauce, recipes follow
  • 3 pounds medium mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • Red Sauce:
  • 2 (35-ounce) cans plum tomatoes in juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 head (about 12 medium cloves) garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium carrots (about 8 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups Red Sauce, recipe above
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper, and saute until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and tomato sauce, increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.

  • Add the mussels and replace the lid. Cook over high heat 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir once gently. Continue to cook until the mussels are completely open and firmly cooked, about 4 minutes more.

  • Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the mussels gently from the pot to a large bowl with a Chinese wire mesh skimmer. Return the pot to the heat and increase the heat to high. Boil for a minute or 2, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve immediately.

Red Sauce:
  • Place the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and place your (clean) hands in the bowl and crush the tomatoes so they breakup into a range of small pieces.

  • In a 5-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant, but before it smokes, about 40 seconds. Add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil until they begin to brown, about 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until it starts to turn golden brown, then add the onions, carrots, and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are very brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, just enough to prevent them from scorching.

  • Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and 1 1/2 cups of water, (white wine or clam juice can be added depending on the intended use) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered until the sauce level has reduced by 2 or 3 inches and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cook the sauce for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick.

  • Remove from heat, cool down in the pot, then when at room temperature, transfer to a sealed plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use.

  • This sauce will keep 10 days in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.

  • Yield: about 2 quarts

Variation: Fra Diavolo Sauce:
  • Using my recipe for basic Red Sauce, you can make a quick and spicy "fra diavolo" sauce that is delicious drizzled over grilled squid and other seafood. For equipment you will need a 3-quart saucepan and a wooden spoon.

  • Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan slightly over medium heat and saute the garlic and crushed red pepper until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 40 seconds.

  • Add the Red Sauce, clam juice, and salt, to taste, and simmer, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat, until the sauce returns to the thickness and quantity of the Red Sauce, about 15 minutes.

  • Yield: 2 cups

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5.0 17
<span>My go to red sauce.  I agree with the others, if you have time to let the veggies brown, your patience will be rewarded.  I like to use a stick blender at the end to blend everything together.  Great base sauce that's delicious on its own or for use in fra diavolo, meat or tomato cream sauces. </span> item not reviewed by moderator and published
I was kinda scared to really brown the veggies but it made all the difference! Love this recipe and will use it for a long time to come. Thanks!! item not reviewed by moderator and published
So easy and delicious! Definitely going to be making this again! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I don't bother w/onions and carrots bc this is my easy weeknight version of cioppino. If I need to 'sweeten' the sauce, I add a tsp of sugar and that's that. I go right to the "fra diavola" version using only one 28 container of Italian imported POMI chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, 12 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper. I add extra dried oregano, I have some I buy directly from Sicily, still on the branches, the aroma and taste cannot be beat...I add frozen basil from my summer bounty, 1/3 cup RED wine, 4 Tbs. of capers, and abt a tsp. of ground fennel...that is the secret ingredient of the universe I never leave out. I simmer 15 mins to get sauce thicker. I add the shellfish, and let the broth come from that; I don't add more, it almost never needs it. I add chopped parsley at end. The consistency is perfect. The sauce takes all of 10 mins to prepare, then the time to simmer. Add whatever seafood you want and make it your own. With crusty bread, YUM. item not reviewed by moderator and published
OMG!!! This is the best red sauce that I have ever made. Making the onions and carrots really brown was crucial... Normally I don't have the patience to wait until they get really brown... but this time I waited until they got that really caramelized color. I follow the rest of the recipe to a tee and turned out AMZING!!! The caramelized change the flavor completely... with a little sweet. Delicious!!! I added a box of mussels to the sauce and served over pasta... This will be my red sauce base for every Italian dish. Thank you guys for posting it. item not reviewed by moderator and published
This is awesome! My first attempt at muscles. Going on the "must make again" list. Easy and delicious! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I've never had mussels in anything but a white wine sauce. After having this recipe, twice in one week mind you, I'll never make them any other way. Delicious! Perfect amount of spice and a lot of flavor. item not reviewed by moderator and published
The RED SAUCE turned out amazing. It is flavorful with a tinge of sweetness. How I changed the recipes: Used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Replaced a small can of tomato sauce instead of tomato paste. Added a can of crushed tomatoes. Left out the oregano by mistake... (actually worked out in the end because the sauce had a lightness and flavor that would have been overpowered by oregano Made the Mussels as per instructions. Spooned the Red Sauce over linguine then topped with mussels removed from pot with slotted spoon. item not reviewed by moderator and published
This was absolutely delicious!! Made the Fra Diavolo sauce-added shrimp, crab, scallops and clams after the sauce cooked for a while. Did not add the carrotsdid add both the clam juice and some pinot grigio. Served over linguine-fantastic!! item not reviewed by moderator and published
It is very good item not reviewed by moderator and published
Made this last night with a lb &amp; a half of mussels and a dozen clams.. The Fra Diavlo sauce was to die for. I didn't add the carrots, but followed most of the other steps and subbed water for the wine &amp; clam juice. That way the consistency was just perfect. I didn't even need to add salt! I let the mussels and clams sit in cold water with a 1/3 cup flour for 15 min as I read that in other recipes and it does actually work! I scrubbed them and debearded the mussels.. Once I got the pot going with the shallots, wine and the red sauce, I dropped in the shellfish and it took exactly 5 minutes for them to be cooked perfectly without overdrying. Made that with a small side of spinach linguine tossed with chives, butter and parsley.. One of the best meals I have put together thanks to this recipe.. &amp; it only cost me $20.00! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Made this for my daughter's birthday dinner (her request) and it was a huge success (doubled the recipe to ensure adequate leftovers, too). Also added calamari and shrimp to go along with the mussels. The fra diavolo sauce was immensely garlicky, spicy and had a perfectly thick, rich consistency. Simmering the sauce down to the appropriate thickness took nearly all day, but I would do it again tomorrow knowing how what the final product is. item not reviewed by moderator and published
This was the first time I made mussels. Not only was it easy, it tasted amazing!! My husband, who claimed he hated mussels (so I made this for the rest of my family), decided to try it after seeing how delicious it looked. He want back for seconds!! Thank you yet again, Emeril!! We LOVE your cookin'!!!! Can't wait to make this again! item not reviewed by moderator and published
If you love mussels the way I do.. you will love this recipe!!! I am also a NJ Italian and this recipe will be my go to for mussels in red sauce. I made the Fra Diavolo version of this recipe and made it almost to the tee! I made the red sauce that was also included in this recipe and it was fantastic! Do let the carrots and onion come to a nice golden brown to properly caramelize for maximum flavor. I only used 1.5 lbs so the cooking time was less. I did not cut back on the rest of the ingredients because I like a lot of sauce. EXCELLENT! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I make this dish at least 3 times a month... I absolutely love it!. It takes quite a while to complete but is well worth it.. its cool cause you can freeze the red sauce and it can be used for another batch of the diavolo sauce for another time. i like to mix in other seafood like shrimp to this recipe. It's soooo good. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I did this recipe with 2 lbs. of Prince Edward Island mussels- I made the Fra Diavolo sauce using my favorite marinara as a base- I cut the olive oil by about half to lighten it up and tossed the parsely into the sauce right at the end. It makes a thin sauce, so I served the mussels in a large pasta bowl over cappelini, which helped to soak up the sauce. Don't be afraid to sprinkle some romano over it. item not reviewed by moderator and published
The spicy red sauce was fantastic; I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a spicy hot Fra Diavlo. BUT, I started with Emeril's basic red sauce and Wow! I've been making red sauce (gravy) for 40 years. Got the recipe from a friend who had emigrated from Naples, Italy, and it's been a faithful and reliable standby ever since. Emeril's red sauce, however, is the best -- by far -- that I have ever tasted, and I will use it forever. Thank you! item not reviewed by moderator and published

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Spicy Mussels with White Wine

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay