Linguini with Mussels and Walnut Parsley Pesto

A Delia Smith recipe taken from the Radio Times many years ago.

Serves : 4

For me, Mussels are still a luxury food that cost very little money. I don’t think anything can match their exquisite, fresh-from-the-sea flavour. In this recipe every precious drop of mussel juice is used which gives a lovely concentrated flavour. Now that mussels come ready cleaned and prepared, it make the whole thing very simple and easy: all you have to do is put them in cold water, then pull off any beardy strands with a sharp knife, using them as soon as possible and discard any that don’t close tightly when given a sharp tap.

Ingredients:
900g (2 lb) mussels, cleaned and prepared
175g (6oz) linguini or other pasta
1 tblsp olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
175ml (6 fl oz) dry white wine
Salt and freshly milled black pepper.

For the pesto:
10g ( ½ oz) walnuts, chopped
25g (1oz) curly parsley, leaves only
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tblsp olive oil
Salt and freshly milled black pepper.

To serve: 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Step One : First prepare the pesto: select a large pan that will hold the mussels comfortably, then in it heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the walnuts in the hot oil to get them nicely toasted on all sides – this will take 1-2 mins. Place the walnuts and any oil left in the pan into a liquidiser or food processor, add the parsley and garlic, the remaining tablespoon of oil and seasoning, then blend everything to make a puree.

Step Two : Next you need to deal with the mussels: heat the olive oil in the same pan that you sautéed the walnuts in, add the shallot and chopped garlic and cook these over a medium heat for about 5 mins or until they’re just soft. Now turn the heat up high, tip in the prepared mussels and add the wine and some salt and pepper. Put on a closely-fitting lid, turn the heat down to medium and cook the mussels for about 5 mins, shaking the pan once or twice or until they have all opened.

Step Three : During those 5 mins bring another large pan of salted water up to the boil. Then when the mussels are cooked, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a warm bowl using a slotted spoon and shaking each well so that no juice is left inside. Keep 8 mussels aside still in their shells, for a garnish. Then remove the rest from their shells and keep them warm, covered with foil in a low oven.

Step Four : Then place a sieve lined with muslin or gauze over a bowl and strain the mussel liquor through it. This is very important as it removes any bits of sand or grit that get lodged in the shells.

Step Five : Now it’s time to pop the pasta into the boiling water and put a timer on for 8 mins (some pasta might need 10 mins so follow the instructions on the packet). Then pour the strained mussel liquor back into the original saucepan and fast-boil to reduce it by about one third. After than turn the heat to low and stir in the pesto.

Step Six : Now add the shelled mussels to the pesto sauce and remove from the heat. As soon as the pasta is cooked, quickly strain it into a colander and divide it between two hot pasta bowls. Spoon the mussels and pesto over each portion, add the mussels in their shells and scatter over the parsley. Serve absolutely immediately with some well-chilled white wine.