Zuppa di Cozze Come la Fanno a Bosa – Sardinian Mussels Soup

View of Bosa, Sardinia along the River Temo from Serravalle's Castle (Malaspina), by Raffaele Sergi, Wikimedia Commons, accessed 19 December 2011

Knowing where a dish comes from is important. When one meets a new friend, the first questions are always “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”. For our categorizing species, to be able to ascribe a location and a function to a person or a thing is the first step to understanding and appreciating. Bosa is a town on the northwestern coast of Sardinia, the streets of which I’ve explored through the wonders of the Internet, though I’ve never been there. Should I eventually arrive in Bosa in the flesh, I’ll certainly be looking for this wonderful soup, but for now it is at least a place which lives in my imagination, and its flavours live on my tongue.

This is a recipe which, after adaptation from Marcella Hazan, has appeared on Epicurious. I was suspicious of the recipe, its timings, and the order of its execution, so I offer it here with my own adaptations. Finely grated sheep’s milk cheese is the key to the immense savouriness of the broth. It may be possible to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano for the Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Romano, but the result would be inferior. Apparently some Sardinian cooks will use couscous instead of breadcrumbs. I have not yet tried this, but I think it would yield a quite different texture.

This recipe will serve two with salad (we had it last night with sautéed Cavolo Nero), bread, and all the trimmings, or four as a primi piatti.


1 kilo live mussels

1/3 cup olive oil

1 heaping T chopped garlic (or more!)

1 small bunch chopped parsley

1/2 tsp dried chilies

2 T fine, dry, unflavoured breadcrumbs (mine is always homemade from totally dry stale bread. It sits in a jar waiting to be used.)

1/3 C finely grated Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Romano (or another hard sheep’s milk cheese)

1 glass dry white wine

1 400g can good quality canned plum tomatoes (Hazan recommends San Marzano tomatoes.)

Grilled crusty bread, a slice per serving


Clean and debeard the mussels. Here is a video that shows you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Od7_XYye0

Heat the olive oil over a moderate flame in a 6 litre saucepan, and add the garlic. Stir occasionally until it becomes golden. Add the parsley, chilies, and breadcrumbs, and then shortly thereafter the wine.

When the wine is bubbling, add the mussels and stir them into the broth. When the mussels have started to open, add the grated cheese and then the tomatoes. Continue to cook until all the mussels have opened.

Either place a slice or two of grilled or toasted bread at the bottom of each bowl, or simply serve a pile of fresh bread along with the soup. It will be required for mopping the plate.


About timwaterman

I am a landscape architect, urbanist, writer, and lecturer based in London.

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