Nonno Contaldo is my mentor Gennaro’s dad, but as far as Nonno is concerned, he thinks I’m his grandson! (You can make of that what you will!). I was really surprised to find out that Nonno lives by himself, and I was very impressed to hear that he still cooks for himself every day; although there are always friends and family nearby to help him if he needs it. His favourite thing to cook for himself is mussels with pasta, so I’m going to talk you through the recipe as he explained it to me.
Get a pan of salted water on to boil. Pour a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil into a separate little pan and put it on a medium heat. Add the garlic, dried chilli and anchovy, then squeeze in and add the cherry tomatoes as the garlic begins to fry – at no point should the garlic take on any colour, but you need the heat to be hot enough to melt the anchovies. The juice from the tomatoes and oil will make a light, very delicate and simple sauce.
Add the linguine to the pan of boiling water and cook according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, add a good handful of washed and debearded mussels to the tomato sauce. Give the pan a little toss, then place a lid on top and cook until all the mussels are open. As usual with mussels, if any remain closed after cooking, throw them away. Add a handful of chopped parsley to the pan.
The pasta will now be a little under al dente and only a minute away from being ready. Nonno likes to drain his pasta, saving a little of the cooking water, then he puts the pasta back into the big pot and pours the mussel sauce over the top, mixing everything together well. Put the pot back on a low heat for an extra minute or two to cook the pasta perfectly – it will suck up all the lovely mussel juice. To finish, drizzle over a good bit of olive oil, season to taste and serve immediately.