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Gigli Pasta with Mussels in Tomato Sauce

You'll love this simple pasta meal, made with gigli pasta, simple tomato sauce and mussels. On the table in 15 minutes, it's ready to enjoy with a glass of wine!  The perfect pasta recipe for summer.

For this recipe, we used one of the most beautifuly-shaped Italian pasta - gigli (gigli means tulip in Italian). These pasta looks like cone with a ruffled edge and reminds of lilies. However, you can use any other kind of pasta.

Preparing this simple pasta

This simple pasta requires a handful of ingredients you already have in your pantry. The only "unusual" ingredient here are mussels. Use fresh mussels for the best flavour (the simple way to tell when they are in season is if there is an R in the month, when there isn't, don't buy them.

How to prepare mussels

If using fresh mussels (in shells), be sure to prepare them properly. First remove the ones that are open, then remove the "beard" from each one. Scrub them to remove anything from them and rinse well in water. Now they are ready to cook!

Place mussels in a large saucepan with some water, and heat on a medium heat. As soon as the water start to simmer, lower the heat. The mussels will start to open. Remove them with a slotted spoon and once slightly cool, remove the flash from the shell. Set aside.

USEFUL TIP! Prepare and cook the mussels as soon after buying as possible, but as long as they're fresh they will keep overnight and for up to a day. Store them in a dry bowl or container covered with a damp tea towel.

This sauce is made quickly with passata di pomodoro instead of fresh tomatoes. Just fry some garlic on the olive oil, add passata and simmer for about 5-6 minutes, add prepared mussels (with some seawater), season, add fresh parsley and lemon zest.

This recipe uses beautifully-shaped gigli pasta (tullip in Italian), which cooks for about 5-6 minutes. This kind of pasta can be found also in the stores, from famous brands like Barilla, but we used the special quality one from the local Tuscan producer.

You can buy this unique lily-shaped pasta at select Italian grocers that carry various authentic Italian pastas, usually at your nearest “Little Italy.” If there are no authentic Italian shops close to where you live, can also find it online at one of these retailers:

There are quite a number of small Italian artisan pasta makers that sell gigli online and you easily order them.

gigli pasta 10

The great thing about this is that the well-flavoured skin of the red mullet goes slightly grainy when it’s fried and seems to coat the spaghetti with the sweet taste of seafood. I also make this with monkfish, john dory, bass or bream; it’s just a lovely way of cooking fish.

Making the sauce

This sauce is made quickly with passata di pomodoro instead of fresh tomatoes. Just fry some garlic on the olive oil, add parsley and passata di pomodoro and simmer for about 5-6 minutes. add prepared mussels (with some seawater), season with ground black pepper and cook for another few minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked (al dente), toss in the tomato sauce and serve immediatelly.

A few of our Italian recipes you'll love:

Gigli Pasta with Mussels in Tomato Sauce


  • 1kg mussels in shells
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley (30g)
  • 250g passata di pomodoro (strained tomatoes)
  • ground black pepper
  • 450g gigli pasta (or other large short pasta)
  • extra parsley and olive oil


  1. Clean the mussels under cold running water, scrubbing the shells well and removing the hairy beards. Discard any mussels that are already open.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry red mullet fillets, skin-side down, for 2-3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer them to a plate.

  3. Heat a non-stick pan on a medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until aromatic. Add parsley, passata di pomodoro and simmer for about 3-4 minutes.

  4. Add mussels to the sauce, season with freshly ground black pepper and cook for another minute.

  5. While the sauce is cooking, put the gigli pasta in a large pan of boiling, salted water. Cook pasta until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes or according to package directions. Drain pasta from the water and gently toss into the sauce, loosening with a splash of pasta water, if needed, then finish with a kiss of extra virgin olive oil and parsley. Serve immediately.

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