Recipe: Lemon pasta with mussels and Italian sausage

Fresh sweet mussels, garlicky Italian sausage, salty olives, earthy mushrooms and lemon pasta create a balanced weeknight dish.

Food forum

EVERETT — It’s a weeknight as I write this. The last thing I ate was ramen and an apple for lunch, so I’m pretty darn hungry.

And after writing out this week’s Forum recipe, I really wish I had some fresh mussels and Italian sausages on hand.

This lemon pasta recipe has all the makings of a delicious weeknight dinner (or weekend brunch): It comes together quickly, is filling and packed with flavor, and you can grab all the ingredients from the grocery story on the way home from work.

“The fresh sweet mussels, garlicky Italian sausage, salty olives, earthy mushrooms and lemon pasta all blend well to create a wonderful dish,” reader Michael Barmuta writes. “The fusion of northern and southern Italian ingredients combine to create harmonious flavors.”

The trick to this recipe is to pre-cook the sausages and lemon in the pasta water, something I’ve never done before! Barmuta said this helps to season the water and add flavor to the pasta. Don’t worry: You’ll brown the sausages later in a hot pan.

Fresh Mussels with Italian Sausage in Lemon Pasta

Serves four

Ingredients

1 lemon cut in half

1 pound fresh pork Italian sausage, 4 to 6 links

1 pound fettuccine pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to finish

6 ounces crimini mushrooms, quartered

1 teaspoons red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic minced

1 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon sugar

4 whole fresh sage leaves (optional)

4 ounces chicken (or seafood) broth

4 ounces dry white wine (such as Fume Blanc)

1 pound fresh mussels

4 ounces stuffed green olives

1 ounce liquid from olives

½ cup parsley, chopped

1 baguette cut on bias, toasted

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a hard simmer. Add ½ lemon and the Italian sausage links to the water. Simmer 4 to 5 minutes. This will season the water to add flavor to the pasta. Remove and discard lemon, reserve sausages for the sauce. Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Cook 8 to 9 minutes until slightly under cooked. Reserve one cup of cooking water. Drain pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a hot pan. Add red pepper flakes and mushrooms and saute for 4 to 5 minutes on medium high heat. Add garlic and reserved sausages, lightly browning for 2 to 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar and sage leaves, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, wine and mussels, then cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes until mussels open. Add drained pasta, olives, olive liquid, the zest and juice of the other ½ of lemon, and parsley. Toss and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand 3 to 4 minutes to allow flavors to develop and pasta to finish cooking. You may need to add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to adjust viscosity. It should be a little “soupy.” Add salt and pepper to taste, as needed.

Remove and discard sage leaves. Serve sauced pasta with mussels into large flat rim bowls. Ladle in more sauce. Make sure each one gets a sausage. Drizzle with olive oil to finish, then place 3 to 4 pieces of crostini around the bowl to dip in the liquid while eating.

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