Steamed Herb Mussels In Tomatoes

Steamed herb mussels in a tomato sauce is a classic French dish, known as Mussels au Provençal. There are many variations on this theme.  Here I offer a basic recipe infused with lots of herbs. 


The Recipe

Ingredients for steamed mussels:

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3/4 onions, chopped (yellow or red)

  • 1/4 cup shallots, chopped

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • 3 pieces of fresh thyme

  • 1 fresh bay leaf

  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced

  • 1 16-ounce can peeled tomatoes, drained (use whole or diced, not pette diced!)

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • 4 or 5 pounds mussels, cleaned


Melt butter in a large deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions and shallots.  Cook for about 1 minute, then add garlic.  When onions are translucent, add remaining herbs and tomatoes.  Bring to a low boil.  Add wine.  Making sure steam is being produced from the mixture, add mussels and cover with a lid.  Shake the pan gently a few times while mussels cook 2-3 minutes or until they are open.  Caution:  Do not over cook mussels or they will be tough and unpleasant to eat!)

Serve with crusty bread or, as I do, with rice.

A note on mussels:

Always buy live fresh mussels.  Fresh mussels will have tightly closed shells or will snap shut when tapped.  Avoid mussels with broken shells or feel heavy (meaning they're full of sand) or those that feel light and loose when shaken (indicating the mussel is dead).  Smaller mussels will be tender.  

Fresh mussels should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 1-2 days from purchase.  Mussels that are open prior to and after cooking should be discarded!

The sauce can be cooked ahead a day or two ahead of time.  Re-heated and then add mussels.