These baked mussels are easy to prepare and make a great appetizer for any occasion. Tender mussels with a tasty garlicy crumb topping - they're elegant finger food (that's budget-friendly too).
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When I first moved to Spain many years ago, it was a little overwhelming. I had lived overseas before, but this time was a little different as I was much more on my own and my language was sketchy, to say the least.
It may sound weird, but finding the main market soon helped me feel at home. It was an amazing collection of vendors, particularly the central fish stall. The quality was excellent and it was constantly busy.
They sold at a pace like I have rarely seen anywhere, always catching the eye of the next customer while they served another. Learning how to order from them was definitely something I needed to master quickly, or at least be good enough.
I soon found that mussels were incredibly reasonably priced, which was important on my low English-teaching salary. They soon became a regular on my menu, whether quickly prepared as mussels in white wine or other ways like with a curry base.
When I moved to London not long after, I was grateful to find a Belgian-style bar and restaurant nearby with a range of mussel dishes. While I loved the classic moules frites, I also really like their baked mussels.
Of course, I have kept meaning to make something similar for years and only recently got round to it. This version is a little different, being more of an Italian-style preparation, but it's incredibly easy and delicious.
How to bake mussels
You can prepare mussels in the same way as pretty much any oyster recipe that bakes them, like oysters Rockefeller. They have a similar texture once cooked, and are a whole lot less expensive.
Some recipes pre-cook the mussels, while others don't. I think it is really up to you whether you do or not. For me, pre-cooking has a few advantages:
- The mussels open up on their own, which is a lot easier to handle than trying to prize them open with a knife (they have a less clear indent to insert your knife than oysters).
- Any mussels that don't open while steaming are not good to eat, so you know that ahead of time.
- You can be sure the mussels are properly cooked.
- You can use the juices in your topping, helping to keep the mussels moist and have extra flavor.
Mussels can take a little extra cooking after steaming, so they are still fine to bake after, but you do want to make sure you don't cook too long and overcook. Really you just want to crisp up the topping, that's it.
The topping here, as I mentioned, is a classic Italian combination of cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and olive oil. You don't want anything too overpowering since mussels have quite a delicate flavor, though you could add some additional herbs or a touch of red pepper flakes, if you like.
See how they come together in the short video!
These are great to serve as an appetizer, but you could also make them in to more of a meal by serving them alongside some salads and some form of crispy potato, for example. You could even pair them up with some fish.
These baked mussels are quick to prepare and cook with a lovely mix of flavors and textures. The garlicy crumbs over the tender mussels really show this often under-appreciated seafood off at its best.
Try these other seafood appetizers:
- Scallop and chorizo stacks
- New England style baked clams
- Baked coconut shrimp with mango dipping sauce
- Plus get more appetizer recipes in the archives.
- 1 lb mussels 450g
- 3 tbsp water approx
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs 4 tbsp
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan or pecorino
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 pinch dry oregano (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Prepare a baking dish with slightly scrunched foil in it (to help the mussels be able to sit level).
- Scrub the mussels, removing any dirt and hairy bit, clean and discard any that are broken.
- Put the mussels in a pot with the water, cover and put on a medium-high heat for a couple minutes until they open up. Remove form the heat.
- Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, garlic, oregano and olive oil in a small bowl.
- When the mussels have steamed, remove one side of the shell and use it to loosen the mussel from the shell, if still attached. Sit the mussel on one side of the shell and set it level on the foil in baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the mussels.
- Spoon/press some of the breadcrumb mixture on top of each mussel, trying to cover the mussel itself as far as possible. If you like, put a little of the mussel cooking juice in the bottom of the shell to help keep the mussel moist.
- Bake the mussels for approx 7-10 minutes until gently golden on top. Serve warm or room temp (don't re-heat them as they will likely go dry and/or tough).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Here are more ideas for Feast of the Seven Fishes for Fish Friday Foodies:
- Artichoke Crab Dip Pasta Bake from Food Lust People Love
- Crab Bites from Making Miracles
- Creamy Clam Dip from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Creamy Mackerel Salad for Two from Sneha's Recipes
- Italian Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare) from Karen's Kitchen Stories
- La Vigilia di Natale from Culinary Adventures with Camilla, who made new dishes for all of the courses for this Italian Christmas Eve dinner! Fun fact: She once spent a year in Rome and learned the food traditions of Italy.
I've also previously pulled together a collection of ideas for the feast of the seven fishes so take a look for more seafood inspiration!