"If you debeard mussels before they're cooked, you can tear the meat," says Pilu. "It's easier to cook the mussel and then the beard comes away easily. The best way to do this is to gently hold the shell of the cooked mussel closed with the beard protruding and then pull lightly on the beard to remove it."
- 10 baby zucchini with flowers
- 400 gm (2 cups) fregola (see note)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 1 small red chilli, finely sliced
- 1 kg black mussels, scrubbed lightly with a scourer
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 200 gm grape tomatoes, halved
- 750 ml (3 cups) fish stock
- 1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1Remove zucchini from the flowers (reserve), trim ends and thinly slice. Remove and discard stamen from flowers.
- 2Add fregola to a large saucepan of boiling salted water and boil until almost cooked (5 minutes). Drain well.
- 3Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and, when hot, add sliced zucchini, garlic and chilli, and cook until soft but not coloured (2-3 minutes).
- 4Increase heat to high, stir in mussels and wine and cook until it starts to boil (1-2 minutes). Cover, shake pan well, then cook, shaking occasionally, until mussels open (2-3 minutes). Remove pan from the heat and remove mussels using a slotted spoon. Gently pry open any unopened mussel shells using a blunt knife such as a butter knife. If the meat smells fine, you can use it; otherwise, discard. Remove the beards, leaving mussels in their shells. Add tomatoes, stock and fregola to the pan, stir and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer (5 minutes). Stir in mussels then remove pan from the heat.
- 5To serve, stir through parsley and zucchini flowers, and season to taste. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with extra oil.
Fregola, Sardinian roasted semolina pasta, is available from select Italian delicatessens and The Essential Ingredient (essentialingredient.com.au).