Steamed Mussels in Tomato Sauce

Cleaning mussels isn’t too hard—it just takes a little bit of time. Mussels have a tiny fuzzy thing that hangs out of one side. This is called the “beard” and isn’t edible. Pull it out from each mussel and then rinse the mussels well in cold water.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded, rinsed and drained

For serving (optional):

  • 1 pound spaghetti, drained, if serving as a main course
  • Crusty bread, if serving as an appetizer
  • Fresh parsley


1 Make the tomato sauce: Add chopped bacon to a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat. Cook bacon until it renders out fat and starts to get crispy, 5 to 6 minutes. Then add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper, and cook until onions soften and become translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Cook for another minute or two to soften the garlic and combine flavors. Then pour in the wine to deglaze the pan—this will release any stuck bits on the pan and help combine flavors. Cook for a minute and then pour in marinara sauce and stir. Bring the mixture to a simmer, turn heat down to low and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.

How to Cook Mussels in Tomato Sauce bacon, onions, and garlic cooking in pan

2 Add the mussels and cook: Remove the lid and add all the mussels. Cover and shake the skillet gently. Cook mussels for 4 to 5 minutes, until they open. Discard any that do not open.

Spaghetti with mussels - mussels in pan of tomato sauce

3 Serve: Serve with crusty bread as an appetizer or over cooked pasta as a main course.

How to Cook Mussels in Tomato Sauce - spaghetti with sauce and mussels on plate

Leftover mussels and sauce: Mussels, like most seafood, don’t keep well for long as leftovers. The sauce and mussels are fine in the fridge for a day or two. Reheat them gently on the stove with a splash of water. I would not freeze this dish.