If you can’t find nice mussels at your local store, you can easily substitute clams. If neither are available, you can use shrimp. They cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the liquid as soon as they’re opaque all the way through.
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 red chile
- 2 or 3 fresh canned peeled plum tomatoes, seeded, and drained
- 1 medium yellow potato, sliced (8 oz)
- Salt, as needed
- 1 lb cavatelli
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 1/4 cup of the oil and 2 of the garlic cloves in a wide pan over medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to turn a light golden color, add the mussels, wine, water, and salt. Cover the pot tightly and let the mussels steam until they are all open, 5 to 6 minutes. Lift the mussels from the cooking liquid. Reserve the cooking liquid. Pick the meat from the shells and set aside.
In a clean large pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic clove and the chile. As soon as the garlic gets some color, after about 1 minute, add the tomatoes, the cooking liquid from the mussels, and the potato. Simmer slowly over low heat until the potato is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Fill a large pot about two-thirds full with cold water and add enough salt to make the water taste salty. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the cavatelli and stir once or twice to keep them separate. Cook until al dente. Drain the cavatelli in a colander, shaking off any excess water, and then add the cavatelli to the sauce. Keep stirring over low heat until the sauce coats the pasta, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved mussels, the cheese, and the parsley. Serve at once
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