Mussels with pasta and pesto

Contributed by Preston Maring, MD

Mussels with pasta and pesto

Most of the pesto I have made in the past uses a lot of olive oil, often Parmesan, and walnuts or pine nuts.  I've even made special trips to the grocery store to get the pine nuts. No more. Great pesto can be made with no cheese, less oil, and other nuts you have in your refrigerator.

My backyard crop of regular and Thai basil this year is ample so it's easy to make a little pesto any time as a base for a quick dinner. Some mussels, some whole-wheat penne pasta — delicious. This is good.

Servings: 4


  • 3 pounds mussels
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta
  • 2 to 3 bunches basil leaves — enough to fill a food processor sort of stuffed in
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • Enough olive oil to achieve proper consistency — less than 1/2 cup
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Cook the pasta.  
  2. Pulse the garlic then the sunflower seeds in a food processor.  
  3. Pulse the basil until it is pretty well chopped up.  
  4. Add the oil with the processor running just until the pesto all whizzes around and is still a bit lumpy.  
  5. Season with salt,  pepper, and lemon juice to taste. 
  6. Heat a large pot. Add mussels and wine. Cover and cook until they open. 
  7. Drain them then strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Save the liquid. 
  8. Toss the mussels, drained pasta and pesto in a large saucepan adding some of the mussel juice to achieve desired consistency.