As a rule of thumb, fish should only be eaten in the months between October and March. Indeed, during the warmer months of Spring and Summer fish enter their reproductive season, and the environmental impact of eating fish is huge, because being fished prevents them from reproducing. Moreover, buying fish during their reproductive season means that you will pay for the weight of the eggs as well. Despite this, most Italians prefer to eat fish during the summer.
The good news is that mussels follow a completely different pattern: the summer months are the best time of the year for buying Italian mussels. As a general rule, Italian mussels should be bought in Summer and Spanish mussels should be bought in Winter. Indeed, contrary to Italian mussels, Spanish mussels taste best during the Winter, probably because they are grown in oceanic farms rather than within the Mediterranean.
Mussels are the cheapest among shellfish and, being pure protein, have a high nutritional value.
Moreover, they are incredibly easy to cook. The only thing you should pay attention to is that you cook them long enough for them to open. In order to do this, place them in a frying pan over high heat, cover the pan with a lid, and stir every 30 seconds.
Unlike clams, which are filled with sand, mussels don’t contain any. Therefore, instead of cooking the sauce and the mussels separately and combining them afterwards (like you would do with clams), you can prepare a sauce and open the mussels inside it, so they can cook together. Serve as soon as the mussels open.
There is a wide variety of sauces you can cook your mussels in. You can opt for a simple mix of oil, garlic, chilli peppers and white wine, or a tomato sauce. You can also make a cream and blue cheese sauce, or a saffron and cream sauce like in the Francophone countries. A good idea would be to take a picture of a restaurant menu to use as inspiration for new combinations to try at home. For a fun dinner party with your friends, try buying a kilo of mussels per person and making a different sauce for each kilo (for instance, you could try preparing the “alla Tarantina” mussels pictured below); add toasted bread and sparkly wine, and you’re all good to go!