Earlier this year I was lucky enough to head over to Italy to work with Italian-Australian food writerSilvia Colloca on her upcoming book “Made in Italy”. Besides eating a lot, I learned some key things about traditional Italian cooking from Silvia. My main takeaway was how to balance flavours in the cuisine, using fresh ingredients and letting the natural produce shine without over-complicating the dish. Working in the Abbruzzo region of Italy, I was situated between the mountains of Torricella and the seaside of San Vito Chientino. There was a plethora of amazing food to be had but the one dish we ate almost every day was mussels cooked in white wine.
Eating this dish led naturally to learning about another very important Italian tradition called ‘scarpetta’. The word translates to ‘little shoe’ and refers to the highly satisfying act of mopping up the sauce with a piece of bread. It’s completely acceptable, even encouraged, and probably added an extra kilo or two to my waistline.
The Chasseur range of cast iron cookware is perfect for cooking this dish. The heavy cast iron helps evenly heat the food and retain the heat for cooking. Mussels are best cooked with a few simple ingredients and all you need to do is throw them in a pot for a couple of minutes. As we head into the warmer months of the year, this dish is perfect served with a nice chilled glass of wine and a loaf of crusty ciabatta. Just remember to scoop up all that leftover sauce and raise your glass. Cheers Silvia! Salute!
Cozze al Vino Bianco (Mussels in White Wine)
Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)
1kg mussels (debearded and cleaned)
2 cloves garlic
2 small red chillies
Handful of flat leaf parsley
1 cup white wine
Before cooking, prepare all your ingredients because this dish doesn’t take long at all to cook. Finely chop your garlic, chilli and parsley, and wash your prepped mussels under cold water.
Heat a heavy based pan or pot with a lid on a medium to high heat and pour in a little olive oil. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for about a minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then add all the mussels and parsley to the pan and pour in the white wine.
Place the lid on top of the pan and bring to boil. Then turn the heat down to medium and let the mussels steam for about 6-8 minutes. To ensure all the flavours mix and the mussels open, gently move the pan back and forth constantly.
Once the mussels are opened, the dish is ready – it’s as simple as that! Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle over a bit of freshly chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread for ‘scarpetta’.