Pairings

Mussels in a Saffron Cream Spaghetti Sauce Paired with Muscadet Wine

pairings

Mussels paired with Muscadet (pronounced Mus-ka-day) wine is a classic food and wine pairing. I selected the Wine Society’s 2019 Muscadet from the Sevre-et-Maine region, which is renowned for making high quality Muscadet wines and is labelled ‘sur lie’. This means that the wine has been aged on the lees, which are the dead yeast cells that remain after fermentation. This particular wine is dry, with a medium minus body, with a noticeably crisp acidity, subtle yeast notes from the lees ageing, and fresh green apple aromas and lemon flavours with some salinity on the finish. Let’s pair this beautiful wine with an amazing dish!

There are so many reasons why Mussels in a Saffron Cream Spaghetti Sauce is a perfect pairing. First of all, Muscadet’s vibrant acidity cuts through the fattiness of the cream sauce, while the yeasty notes complement the mussels’ rich umami flavours. The Muscadet’s fresh green and citrus fruit flavours enhance the herbaceous vegetal notes from the parsley, shallots and garlic, while the red chilli flakes provide some heat on the palate. Finally, the saffron adds dynamic complexities to the mix, with its earthy, floral aromas and flavours along with incredible colour. Honestly, this dish just works. Simple ingredients paired with a wonderful wine!

Cooking the Spaghetti

  • Begin by pouring 3.5 Litres of salted water into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, clean the mussels while you’re waiting for the water to boil.

Scrubbing the Mussels

  • The first thing to do once you’re ready to cook your mussels is to clean them in cold water with a scrub pad. There’s no need to use soap!! These mussels were rope grown and therefore didn’t take too long to clean. However, some mussels will need to be gently scrubbed on the outside of their shells to remove any barnacles and the little hairy bearded bits called ‘byssus’.
  • While cleaning them, discard any mussels that might have gone bad. One way to check for freshness is to see if they’re closed. If any aren’t closed, gently press them and see if they react and close naturally. Broken mussels or ones that don’t close should be immediately discarded. The last thing you want is to get sick from eating bad seafood!!

Slicing and Dicing

  • Before cooking the spaghetti, you will need to prepare your vegetables because the sauce and mussels cook quickly. Everything needs to be ready to go!
  • I use shallots for this recipe, mainly because they have a much more concentrated flavour than onions. Also, I love the slightly purple colour they add to the mix. These particular shallots are called Echalion Shallots. They’re a lot fussier than the smaller ones because you don’t have to peel so many!! I sure do sound lazy!!
  • Then finely chop the garlic. I decided not to press the garlic because I like the bits of it hanging out in the pasta and clinging to the cooked mussels, rather than a mushed-up clump. Also, I think it retains its flavour better and adds more of a zing to the pasta when you bite it, rather than overpowering the dish with garlic flavours.
  • Chop a handful of fresh flat-leafed parsley and set aside.
  • Prepare your remaining ingredients and have them ready nearby, as you will need to add them quickly!

Cooking the Spaghetti

  • Once the mussels are washed and you’ve sliced and diced everything, then you’re ready to start cooking the spaghetti. As a general rule, 500g of spaghetti is usually enough for 4 people, unless they are my 4 boys!!!
  • Add the spaghetti to the boiling salted water and cook for 8 minutes. This will achieve an al dente style which means that the pasta isn’t soggy but still has a bit of a bite to it.

Cooking the Mussels

  • Add the unsalted butter to another pot (I used my Dutch oven!). Melt the butter over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté the shallots for 2 minutes
  • Then add the finely chopped garlic. Continue to sauté for 2 more minutes and then sprinkle in the dried red chilli flakes. These add just a tiny essence of heat to the mix.
  • Continue to cook for another minute before adding the wine. I used 150ml of the Muscadet for this recipe, but you can also use another dry, crisp white wine such as Riesling or Chablis. Bring to a boil.
  • Once the wine has been added and the mixture is boiling, quickly and carefully add the washed mussels. It’s best to lift them out of the bowl because they may leave some grit and sand behind.
  • Immediately cover the pot with a lid and boil the mussels for 1 minutes.
  • After a minute, the shells should have opened and you will see the beautiful mussels inside. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened after cooking.
  • Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon from the cooking liquid and place in a bowl. Set them aside for a few minutes. You will add them back in with the saffron cream sauce and spaghetti later.

Cooking the Saffron Cream Sauce

  • Saffron adds just a bit of a subdued floral depth, fragrant earthiness and the most beautiful vibrant yellow colour to food. Add about a teaspoon (large pinch) of saffron threads to the left-over liquid from boiling the mussels and medium-high heat, bring to a gentle simmer for about a minute.
  • Once simmering, add the double cream and stir all the ingredients together over medium heat. You don’t want this to reach a hard boil, as the cream will separate.
  • Now, add the remaining 50ml of dry white wine, freshly chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix together and cook over medium heat for another minute or two.
The colour of the saffron cream sauce is gorgeous!
  • By this point the spaghetti should be finished cooking. Drain it in a colander. Shake the excess water out, as you don’t want your cream sauce to be too watery.
  • Add the spaghetti to your saffron cream sauce and mix together. Then cover the spaghetti and sauce with the cooked mussels.
  • Finally, gently combine the mussels with the saffron spaghetti cream sauce and season with more salt, pepper and freshly chopped parsley.

Serving

  • Enjoy warm with crusty, buttery garlic bread.

Wine Pairing

  • Serve with a glass of Muscadet Sevre-et-Main Sur Lie.

Mussels in a Saffron Cream Spaghetti Sauce paired with a Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine ‘sur lie’ Wine

A saffron cream sauce with mussels and spaghetti paired with a Muscadet 'sur lie' wine! It doesn't get much better than this!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Keyword: muscadet, mussels, saffron, spaghetti
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 kg fresh mussels in their shells
  • 3.5 Litres boiling salted water
  • 500 grams dried spaghetti fresh works too!
  • 60 grams unsalted butter
  • 75 grams chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic about 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 handful freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 200 ml dry white wine Muscadet, Chablis or Riesling separate into 150ml and 50ml
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Wine Pairing

  • Pair with a glass of Muscadet (sur lie) wine

Instructions

Boiling the Spaghetti

  • Begin by pouring 3.5 Litres of salted water into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. 
  • Meanwhile, clean the mussels while you're waiting for the water to boil. 

Scrubbing the Mussels

  • The first thing to do once you're ready to cook your mussels is to clean them in cold water with a scrub pad.  Gently scrub on the outside of the shells to remove any barnacles and the little hairy bearded bits called 'byssus'.  
  • Discard any mussels that are broken or don't close when pressure is gently applied. 
  • Set the mussels aside in a separate dish.

Slicing and Dicing

  • Before cooking the spaghetti, you will need to prepare your vegetables because the sauce and mussels cook quickly. Everything needs to be ready to go! 
  • Chop the shallots, garlic and parsley. Set aside.
  • Have your remaining ingredients measured and ready to go.

Cooking the Spaghetti

  • Add the spaghetti to the boiling salted water and cook for 8 minutes until al dente.  

Cooking the Mussels

  • Add the unsalted butter to another pot (I used my Dutch oven!).  Melt the butter over medium heat and add the shallots.  Sauté the shallots for 2 minutes 
  • Then add the finely chopped garlic. Continue to sauté for 2 more minutes and then sprinkle in the dried red chilli flakes. 
  • Continue to cook for another minute before adding 150ml of the wine.  I used some of the Muscadet for this recipe, but you can also use another dry, crisp white wine such as Riesling or Chablis.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once the wine has been added and the mixture is boiling, quickly and carefully add the washed mussels.  Lift them out of the bowl with a large slotted serving spoon so any grit or sand is left behind.
  • Immediately cover the pot with a lid and boil the mussels for 1 minute.
  • After a minute, remove the lid. The shells should have opened and you will see the beautiful mussels inside.  Discard any mussels that haven't opened after cooking.  
  • Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon from the cooking liquid and place in a bowl.   Set them aside for a few minutes.  You will add them later.  

Cooking the Saffron Cream Sauce

  • Add about a teaspoon (large pinch) of saffron threads to the left-over liquid from boiling the mussels and over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle simmer for about a minute.
  • Once simmering, add the double cream and stir all the ingredients together over medium heat.  You don't want this to reach a hard boil, as the cream will separate.  
  • Now, add the remaining 50ml of dry white wine, freshly chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix together and cook over medium heat for another minute or two.  
  • By this point the spaghetti should be finished cooking.  Drain it in a colander.  Shake the excess water out, as you don't want your cream sauce to be too watery.  
  • Add the spaghetti to your saffron cream sauce and mix together. Then cover the spaghetti and sauce with the cooked mussels.  
  • Finally, gently combine the mussels with the saffron spaghetti cream sauce and season with more salt, pepper and freshly chopped parsley.

Serving

  • Enjoy while warm with crusty, buttery garlic bread.

Wine Pairing

  • Serve with a glass of Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine 'sur lie' wine.