I grew up watching my dad make mussels a few different ways but this Provençal recipe is my favorite. It is my go-to recipe when I want a no-fuss, yet festive meal. This dish makes a beautiful presentation but it is the taste of the garlicky, herbaceous broth and succulent mussels that create the memories. Bonus: Kids tend to like them too. Serve with a crisp green salad, crusty loaf of bread, and a good chardonnay. Nothing closer to heaven!


  • 5 pounds fresh mussels
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, optional
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced or 1 teaspoon dried, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Large loaf of warm, crusty bread, optional but really worth the calories


  1. Remove beards from the mussels. Scrub the mussels, place in a large colander, and rinse well. Let drain fully. Discard any mussels that are partially open or have cracked shells.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven with lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and stir, cooking 1 minute more or until fragrant.
  3. Add saffron, pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, and pepper, and stir to blend the flavors. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, letting it cook 2-3 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
  4. Bring the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and their juices, mussels, and parsley, and give the mussels and tomato mixture a good stir. Cover and cook until all mussels are opened, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered and let sit for 2-3 more minutes.
  5. Pour the mussels into a large serving bowl (or serve in pot). Sprinkle with additional Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a warm loaf of crusty bread and a crisp chardonnay.


When our meal was finished and the kitchen was clean, I would scrub the shells and give them to my son, Adam, when he was young. He would plop them into the bathtub and pretend he was at the beach. We did the same thing with clam shells too.