Cooking on board: Pasta with Mussels, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil

When we were anchored in the Maddalena Archipelago, north of Sardinia, in an area that is known as the Piscine Naturali di Budelli, I thought it would be appropriate to prepare pasta with mussels and cherry tomatoes for dinner. Because it was at this same spot two years ago that we got a similar dish for lunch during an excursion. And then a year later we also got pasta with mussels for lunch during a boat excursion in Puglia. I already prepared that dish at home and blogged about it. This version is different mostly because of the basil, which worked very well.

Back home mussels are sold already cleaned, but here in Italy they were weighed first and then cleaned with a machine. So you actually get a bit less than what you pay for.

Cooking in the small galley of a sailboat poses its challenges. To make this dish I had to juggle with pots. There was a nice sunset while I was cooking.


For 4 servings

2 kg (4.4 lbs) mussels, scrubbed clean; discard any mussels that are open

600 grams (1.3 lbs) cherry tomatoes, halved

400 grams (.9 lbs) short pasta

1 onion, chopped

125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

30 grams (1 oz) fresh basil, leaves only, torn or in chiffonade

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the mussels in a pot and add the white wine.

Cover and cook over high heat until the mussels are open. Shake the pan as needed. Take off the heat as soon as the mussels are open.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Do not add salt.

Strain the mussels liquid into a pot.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft and start to color.

Meanwhile, take most of the mussels out of their shells…

… but keep 24 mussels in their shells for garnish.

Bring the reserved mussel liquid to a boil.

Cook the pasta for 4 minutes less than indicated on the package for al dente.

Then drain the pasta…

…and finish cooking the pasta in the mussel liquid. This will flavor the pasta.

In the meantime, add the cherry tomatoes to the onions and increase the heat. Stir for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes are starting to soften.

Then add the mussels (without shells) and stir for a minute over low heat to warm them through.

Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the liquid. Combine the pasta with the sauce and add the basil. Toss to mix, adding a bit of the reserved cooking water if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Garnish with the reserved mussels in their shells, and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil. Serve at once.

Wine pairing

No surprises: again Vermentino di Sardegna.


11 thoughts on “Cooking on board: Pasta with Mussels, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil

  1. Not a small sailboat 🙂 ! Not a small galley either, and I have cooked in a few !! Like the dish . . . and the calm sunset . . . oh, forgot . . . that chef seems rather nice also . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, thanks. This is actually one of the few times that I am wearing more than just Speedos on the boat. The galley in our own boat back home is a lot bigger and better equipped. At least I brought a good chef’s knife. (Which I actually bought in Darwin right before we started our road trip via Alice Springs to Adelaide. It’s ceramic and I only use it on vacation.) The sailboat is 37 feet so indeed not small.


      1. Sorry to be plebeian in comparison with a sailboat but my experience was most often on a 36 ft motor . . . the ‘galley’ being minuscule under a porthole ! The cabin far narrower . . Hmm ! Being North European . . . why wear anything bar what you were born with when in private . . . . 🙂 !!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Until recently, Dutch mussels were only available September through April (with “r” in the month), so not in summer. Recently a method has been developed to also have them in summer, but they are smaller.

          Liked by 1 person

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