linguine & mussels alla diavola

I had my first taste of sweet, succulent mussels at a recent visit to Mario Batali’s & Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza restaurant in Los Angeles. For antipasti, we ordered steamed mussels with passato di pomodoro, chilies & herbs, served with crusty bread for dipping. This recipe was inspired by our meal that night and is my take on mussels in a spicy tomato sauce. My secret ingredient is crispy pancetta, which adds a salty complexity and a wonderful texture. If you can’t find pancetta, unsmoked bacon is a fine substitute, but even that might be hard to find in your neighborhood grocery store. If you can’t find either of them, simply take regular bacon and blanch in boiling water first to reduce its smoky flavor.

To make this into a full meal, I tossed in some linguine and served it with grilled, garlicy bread for dipping. To make the bread, simply take thick slices of crusty bread and brush with extra virgin olive oil. Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat and grill the bread slices until they are golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Cut a large garlic clove in half and rub the cut-side of the garlic over the hot, grilled bread. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper and you’ll have the perfect dipping agent to accompany the linguine & mussels alla diavola!




1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta, chopped (See the Guide)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (See the Guide)
1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes (See the Guide)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons bottled capers, drained
1/3 cup red wine (See the Guide)
2 pounds black mussels, cleaned*
1 pound linguine
  salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley



Large cutting board
Heavy-bottomed French or Dutch oven (See the Guide)
Chef’s knife (See the Guide)
Can opener
Colander or pasta strainer
Slotted wooden spoon or non-metal spatula



  • In a large heavy-bottomed French or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the pancetta and reserve.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes with puree, dried oregano, capers, wine, half of the reserved crispy pancetta, and salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, salt the water and cook linguine until just under al dente, about 7 minutes and then drain in a colander.
  • While the pasta cooks, turn up the heat of the spicy tomato sauce to medium high and add the cleaned mussels. Cook, covered, until mussels just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the cooked mussels into a separate bowl and discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.
  • Toss in the linguine with the spicy tomato sauce and pour the cooked mussels on top of the pasta. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley and the remaining reserved crispy pancetta. Serve with crusty bread for dipping and enjoy!



  • Just before cooking, clean the mussels by scrubbing them well with a brush under cold water and scraping off any barnacles with a knife. If the beard is still attached, remove it by pulling it from tip to hinge or by pulling and cutting it off with a knife. The tomato sauce, without mussels, can be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled, covered, until ready to use.

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2 comments to linguine & mussels alla diavola

  • Toni

    Really loving the recipes you been posting on this site. I want to make this recipe, but i was at the grocery store the other day and they only had green-lipped mussels. Can I substitute them for black mussels…whats the difference?

  • Lilia

    Hi Toni! So, I had the exact same question when I was shopping for mussels at Whole Foods. The guy behind the seafood counter told me that black mussels are sweeter and more tender than the larger, meatier green-lipped mussels… and I totally agree! I made this for my mom during the holidays and she was amazed at how I got the mussels to be so tender. I told her it’s because she’s just used to the more commercial green-lipped mussels. If you haven’t cooked with black mussels before, definitely give it a try and let me know what you think!

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