Mussels Marinara ~ Cozze alla Marinara

Mussels marinara are a terrifically simple dish that’s still full of flavor. Flavored with just pepper and parsley, the faintly briny and sweet mussels are the star of the show.

Mussels marinara garnished with parsley, in a white saucepan beside two wine glasses.

These mollusks have several different names in Italian–cozze, muscoli, peoci, and mitili. Nowadays, though, most commercially available mussels are farmed, which guarantees a high level of cleanliness. However, they should still be thoroughly scrubbed under cold, running water, but not left to soak in water.

Pull off the beards with the help of a short, sharp knife and knock off any barnacles from the shells with the knife handle. Discard any mussels with broken shells or those that do not shut immediately when sharply tapped. Their tender, tasty flesh is very easy to digest and their cooking juices are a delicious addition to soups, sauces, and risottos.—The Silver Spoon Kitchen

Mussels Marinara FAQs

What if I wanted to use frozen mussels in this recipe?

You would cook them in exactly the same way, darling. Place them in the pot and cook until they open, being aware that frozen ones might take a little longer than 5 minutes.

I’ve never had mussels before. How do I eat them?

We get it. If this is your first time trying these tasty little morsels, you can absolutely just grab it in your hand and simply suck the cooked mussel out of the shell. However, you can hold the shell with one hand and pluck the mussel out using a fork. Easy-peasy!

Can I add anything to this recipe?

Even though the beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity, you could always zhush this up with a squirt of lemon juice or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Go with what moves you, we say.

Mussels Marinara ~ Cozze alla Marinara

Mussels marinara garnished with parsley, in a white saucepan beside two wine glasses.
This dish is great for a laid-back dinner party, with particular emphasis on the laid-back part. The sweet and briny mussels are a big part of what makes the dinner both company-worthy and stress-free.

Prep 5 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Total 10 minutes
4 servings
163 kcal
5 / 2 votes
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  • 3 1/4 pounds mussels scrubbed
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves


  • Place the mussels in a large pan or pot over high heat with plenty of pepper but no water. Cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any that remain closed.
  • Drain the mussels, reserving the cooking liquid left in the pan that exuded from the mollusks during cooking. Place the mussels in a deep serving dish. Strain the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a small bowl. Stir in the parsley, pour the mixture over the mussels, and serve.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 163kcal (8%)Carbohydrates: 7g (2%)Protein: 22g (44%)Fat: 4g (6%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mg (18%)Sodium: 539mg (23%)Potassium: 618mg (18%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 553IU (11%)Vitamin C: 19mg (23%)Calcium: 53mg (5%)Iron: 8mg (44%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These mussels marinara are incredibly easy prepare with nice results. And this recipe really highlights the flavors derived from the natural juices, with none of the typical wine or lemon added, just a bit of water from the rinsed mussels. Also, the cracked pepper added a hint of complexity, and the chopped parsley some brightness. I did squeeze a bit of lemon after a few bites, just because I love the extra acidity, but if you’re looking for the true taste of the ocean, leave as-is.

This mussels marinara is the simplest recipe, and it results in one of the most delightful, fresh, nose-in-the-air tastes. Nothing but mussels and parsley. One big pot, high heat, plate up, and eat! The sweet, delicate, natural taste of the mussels is the taste you get—no heavy, over-garlicked, creamy, tarted-up mussels here! Just the natural, sweet juices with a bit of parsley to add to that fresh taste. Smooth, sweet, with a hint of the waters—what more could we ask?

This cozze alla marinara recipe is so satisfying for such a simple, easy-to-prepare recipe. What else can you make in less than 5 minutes that is so seemingly fancy and delicious? That being said, I missed the sauce for dipping bread into. I love coconut mussel curries or even simple garlic white wine sauces because of all the broth leftover at the bottom of the bowl.

Originally published December 12, 2011


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. The method of preparing the mussels in this recipe sounds exactly like how I want to eat them. So simple, so pure. The first time I ate mussels was in 1992. I was in Paris with my mom. The family had a celebration dinner before my mom and I returned to the states. We had mussels, french fries, and champagne. I was uncomfortable because I had no clue how to eat them. My mom said I could slurp them out, pick out with a fork, or slurp the first one, then use the shell as a pincher (tweezer) to extract the rest. I chose the pincher method and still eat them that way today, but haven’t noticed anyone else ever eat them this way. Did my mom trick me? lol.

    1. That’s such a wonderful memory, Linda! Thank you so much for sharing it. And, I don’t think there’s any wrong way to eat mussels, so you keep on doing it the way you love.

  2. I’ll tell ya what…the author of this recipe is calling it tight. True, “Marinara” is based on the Italian word for “mariner”, but today it is typically applied to a tomato-based sauce. Therefore, when someone orders “muscles marinara” they are expecting to be served muscles in a tomato-based sauce or broth.

    1. That’s true, Jim. And I have seen variations on this recipe that include tomatoes, but I believe this is intended to be the original version of the recipe.

  3. I have a box of salt which is used to make ocean-like sea water for salt water aquariums. I make a gallon of this and chill it and place my fresh mussels in it and allow them to purge. I them remove them and rinse them and de-beard them. I sauté shallots, garlic, parsley, and chopped seeded tomato in butter and olive oil. Add white wine, boil, then add the mussels. Boil until they open and serve with a crusty baguette. May add a squeeze of lemon. This is a little slice of heaven.

    1. We’re not going to argue with you, Stu B. Not with that description…sounds lovely! And with the tomatoes, it’s what I think most of us expect from a recipe with “marinara” in the title. Although we’re told that in some regions, “moules marinara” does, contrary to our assumptions, refer to this simple, tomato-less sauce that’s no less satisfying.

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