This recipe for Pasta with Mussels, pancetta, and three delicious tomato sauce options has been sponsored by La San Marzano. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Each summer, I visit the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show in New York City. It’s an opportunity to sample the latest and greatest in food trends and gourmet products, and connect with brands from around the world.
At the 2018 show, I met La San Marzano. Truth be told, my nose brought me to their beautifully-appointed display the first day. The irresistible aroma of tomato sauce had wafted around the corner, and I couldn’t help but follow the trail.
As soon as I tasted their marinara sauce, I fell in love. In fact, I found myself at their booth the following day as well. I could tell you that my landing there at lunch a second time was a coincidence, but you’d be right to be skeptical. I wanted another taste of La San Marzano’s sauces!
Today, I’m happy to share one of my favorite recipes with you: Pasta with Mussels in San Marzano Tomato Sauce. This versatile dish is easy to make, perfect for entertaining, and a gorgeous centerpiece to any dinner table.
About La San Marzano
La San Marzano is a third generation, family-owned company based in Italy. I had the pleasure of speaking with their owner, Felice Romano, in New York.
Felice is deeply passionate about his company and the tomato products they produce. His expertise is evident, and I learned quite bit about La San Marzano’s special tomatoes in speaking with him.
I’ve equated the distinction of “San Marzano” with quality for years. What I didn’t know is that many times, the tomatoes we see labeled as “San Marzano” aren’t actually the real deal.
To be an authentic product, the tomatoes must be grown and harvested in the San Marzano region of Italy. Located at the base of Mt. Vesuvius, the rich, volcanic soil in this region contributes to their exceptional flavor. If the crops don’t come from this area, they simply aren’t “San Marzano” tomatoes.
La San Marzano’s Products: Tradition, Quality, and Convenience
La San Marzano offers an extensive line of tomato products, including whole and diced tomatoes, and pasta sauces such as Marinara, Tomato Basil, Vodka, Four Cheese, and Roasted Garlic.
Rooted in tradition and highlighting the best flavors of their San Marzano tomatoes, the sauces use all natural, non-GMO ingredients. From fresh basil and garlic to Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, everything is sourced in Italy and selected with the highest commitment to quality.
The first time I opened a jar of La San Marzano’s sauce at home, I immediately noted that I could see the ingredients used. There were visible slices of garlic, chunks of tomatoes, and ribbons of basil.
Being of half-Italian heritage, I often make my own pasta sauce. La San Marzano’s sauces taste like those my family and I would make ourselves, with the convenience of a jarred sauce. They’ve become a staple in my pantry.
San Marzano Pasta Sauce Variations: 3 Dinners, 1 Recipe
La San Marzano makes it easy to create variations on a single recipe with their sauces. My three favorite varieties to use for Pasta with Mussels are Marinara, Tomato Basil, and Arrabbiata.
- Marinara Sauce: With sweet San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil, this sauce is perfect for a classic bowl of Mussels Marinara. I like to sauté pancetta and add it to the dish before serving.
- Tomato Basil Sauce: This delicate sauce is reminiscent of marinara, but with a more prominent flavor and aroma of basil. It pairs beautifully with the briny mussels for a bright, fresh feel.
- Arrabbiata Sauce: If you love a spicy bowl of Pasta with Mussels, this sauce is for you! Arrabbiata combines the best flavors of marinara with red pepper flakes for a sauce that’s just spicy enough, but not overpowering. For a twist, a little sautéed chorizo in place of the pancetta is the perfect accompaniment.
Serving Pasta with Mussels
You can use any long pasta you’d like in this dish, from spaghetti (pictured) to bucatini, linguine, or tagliatelle. It’s best served immediately after cooking, with simple finishing touches that allow the sauce’s exquisite flavors to shine.
A drizzle of fruity olive oil, a little chopped parsley, crusty Italian bread, and a glass of wine, and you’re ready for dinner.
Choose the perfect wine for your meal!
Certified Sommelier and Italian Wine Ambassador, Hugh Preece, suggests:
With Marinara Sauce:
- Pairing: Allegrini Valpolicella Classico DOC: Ruby red with purplish-blue reflections the nose express’ scented fruit with notes of cherries, fresh hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Impressively lively and playful on the palate.
- Daring Pairing: Borgo Lame Barbera d’asti DOCG: Ruby red, mild and fruity, with raspberry and plum, full bodied, velvety, pleasant and dry finish.
With Tomato Basil:
- Pairing: Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC: Lacryma Christi translated means ‘Tears of Christ’. Intense ruby-red in color, aromas of cherries and red fruit with subtle notes of plums, raspberries, and black pepper. Refined tannins and good acidity make this wine plentiful.
- Daring Pairing: Barone di Villagrande Etna Rosato DOC: This Nerello Mascalese has a Brilliant soft pink color, vibrant and fresh aromas of flowers and citrus with a firm yet stylish mouth feel, complex continued finish.
- Pairing: Casale Del Giglio Cesanese Lazio Rosso IGT: Intense ruby red, deep aromas of cherry, ensued by spicy notes of white pepper, black pepper and violet. The mouth feel is soft, with persistent tannins and pronounced acidity.
- Daring Pairing: Tiefenbruner Gewurztraminer “Merus” South Tyrol DOC: Brilliant yellow to golden-yellow in color, with a marked aromas of ripe grapes and candied fruits, accompanied by fine notes of honey, oriental spices, sage and rose petals. It is a full-bodied, harmonious wine with a lasting finish.
Pasta with Mussels in San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Pasta with Mussels is an easy to prepare dish that makes a beautiful presentation. Choose from three San Marzano pasta sauces: Marinara, Tomato Basil, or Arrabbiata.
- 2 pounds fresh mussels , cleaned and soaked, with tightly-closed shells (see note)
- 12 ounces long pasta , such as spaghetti or linguine
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for drizzling
- 24 ounces La San Marzano pasta sauce (1 jar: Marinara, Tomato Basil, or Arrabbiata)
- chopped Italian parsley , for garnish
Cook pasta in salted, boiling water until "al dente." Drain.
While pasta is cooking, cook pancetta in olive oil in a large, wide pan until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of oil, drain it off so that you have about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
Add your jarred La San Marzano pasta sauce of choice and bring to a simmer. Add mussels and toss to coat them in the sauce. Cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the mussels' shells have opened. Start checking the mussels around 3-4 minutes, and use tongs to remove the open mussels to a bowl while the others continue to cook. Discard any mussels that do not open.
When all the mussels are cooked and removed from the pan, increase heat and simmer the sauce, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir pancetta back into the sauce and toss with the pasta.
Nestle mussels into the pasta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve, sprinkled with fresh parsley.
For detailed info on buying, cleaning, and storing mussels, read my Fresh Mussels Guide.
- Substitute 4 ounces diced chorizo sausage for the pancetta with the Arrabbiata Sauce.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to the Marinara or Tomato Basil Sauces for a wisp of heat.