There are countless recipes for Mussels in White Wine, or Moules Marinières.  The name simply means mussels cooked in the mariner’s style and the classic preparation is simple.  Just steam the mussels in a combination of butter, shallots, white wine, thyme or parsley. 

Bistros throughout France serve Moules Frites, or mussels served with crispy French Fries.  Our local bistro does the same, although my wife and I prefer crusty bread to dip in the flavorful broth, and leave the fries to the kids.

Some recipes call for a thickening of the cooking liquid, with cornstarch or buerre manie.  Others call for some vermouth or vinegar with the white wine.  Where I prefer to depart from the classic is with tomatoes – both a little tomato paste and some diced canned tomatoes.  The paste, added before the cooking liquid and allowed to caramelize, imparts a richness to the broth.

Much of the mussels available today are farmed, frequently grown on ropes, and have little sand to contend with.  If you have wild mussels, cover them in a large bowl with cold water and a tablespoon of flour, and soak them for 30 minutes.  The mussels will ‘spit out’ any sand.  Drain them, discard the water, scrub off any ‘beard’ remaining and you’re ready to go.


2 lbs. mussels cleaned (throw away any not tightly closed)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

2 shallots diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 cups white wine

Salt and pepper

Chopped parsley


1.     Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.

2.    Add shallot and sauté until soft, 3-4 minutes, do not brown.

3.    Add garlic, red pepper and a pinch of salt - sauté 1 minute more.

4.    Add tomato paste, stir constantly for 1 minute until paste darkens.

5.    Add tomatoes and white wine; turn heat to high and bring to boil.

6.    Add mussels, stir well, and reduce heat to simmer and cover.

7.    Steam mussels until they all open, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Shake the pot occasionally with the lid on to be sure all the mussels cook evenly.

8.    When all the mussels have opened (discard any that don’t), remove the mussels to a large serving bowl.

9.    Whisk 1 tablespoon of butter into the simmering broth until melted, then pour the sauce over the mussels.

10.   Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.