Mussels Saganaki 4.000

Eric Wolfinger

Mar 23, 2017

Paula Wolfert recommends soaking wild-caught mussels in a bowl of cool, lightly salted water for 30 minutes, lifting them out of the water with a large slotted spoon so that any dislodged sand doesn’t get back into the shells.

Make Ahead: The mussels can be cooked, shelled and refrigerated a day in advance. The saganaki needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

4 - 6 mezze servings or 4 main-course servings

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 mezze servings or 4 main-course servings

  • 3 pounds mussels, debearded
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lemon, or more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1 serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes (fresh or no-salt-added canned)
  • 5 large fresh mint leaves, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Greek), crushed
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, preferably Bulgarian
  • Country-style bread, for serving (optional)


Rinse the mussels; discard any damaged or open ones that don’t close when tapped. Place in a deep saute pan or saucepan and add the water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally; cook for 3 minutes. Use tongs to transfer any opened mussels to a large bowl; continue to cook the unopened mussels 1 minute more and add the newly opened ones to the bowl. Discard any unopened mussels.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth. Pour the cooking liquid from the pan through, and reserve.

Take the mussels out of their shells and place them in a shallow serving dish. Season lightly with salt and a few grinds of pepper, then squeeze the lemon quarter over them.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the parsley and add half of the finely chopped serrano; cook for about 1 minute, until the parsley turns a brighter shade of green. Stir in the tomatoes, mint, powdered mustard, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Add the reserved mussel broth to the skillet; increase the heat to high and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until the mixture has reduced to form a slightly thickened sauce. Add some or all of the remaining serrano, then increase the heat to high again and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the still-warm sauce over the mussels, cover and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

Twenty minutes before serving, soak the feta in cold water (to cover) for 15 minutes, then drain and cut into small cubes.

Reheat the mussels and their sauce in the same skillet you used to cook the sauce, over medium-low heat. Stir in the feta and cook for about 2 minutes, until warmed through. Taste and season lightly with salt and/or black pepper, or more lemon juice, as needed.

Divide among individual plates. Serve right away, with bread for mopping up the sauce.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life,” by Emily Kaiser Thelin (M&P, 2017).

Tested by Jane Black.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at