Risotto with Fresh Mussels

This image courtesy of Sarah Remington

Editor's Note: This seafood risotto is popular among the chefs at beachfront restaurants on Calabria's Tyrrhenian coast. They have adopted the Northern Italian rice cooking technique. You will love trying easy slow cooker Risotto with Fresh Mussels for a casual or more formal dinner at your home. This slow cooker risotto has an undeniable creamy richness. It comes across like it contains heaping piles of butter, yet it has none. Mussels do great in this dish. We suggest shelling them after steaming and before stirring them into the risotto. You can leave some shells in to make the dish look good, but otherwise the shells are unnecessary. You can pair this risotto with a green salad and grilled swordfish steaks. Your guests will truly enjoy the risotto, which could also be a meal unto itself. 

Chefs at the beachfront restaurants on Calabria’s Tyrrhenian coast make superb seafood risotto, having adopted that Northern Italian rice cooking technique. My favorite version uses mussels, with a little saffron and tomato to give the rice the deep coral color of lobster bisque. I’m not sure what gives this risotto its creamy richness; it tastes like it contains heaps of butter, yet it has none. I shell most of the steamed mussels before stirring them into the risotto but leave some in the shell for eye appeal. You could make a dinner of this risotto, with a green salad after. For a more substantial meal, serve the risotto as a first course, followed by grilled swordfish steaks.


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseAppetizer, Main Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free


Taste and TextureCreamy, Hot & Spicy, Winey


  • 2 pounds (900 grams) fresh mussels
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 sprigs plus 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomatoes, or canned San Marzano tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 small dried hot red pepper, optional
  • ½ cup (125 milliliters) dry white wine
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 cups (400 grams) Italian Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • Generous pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 quart (1 liter) hot vegetable broth, preferably homemade


  1. Rinse the mussels well in several changes of cold water. Discard any that are open or that fail to close when held under cold running water. With a food brush, scrub the mussel shells to remove any bits of sand or grit clinging to them and yank out the hairy beard between the shells.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch (30-centimeter) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the parsley sprigs and sauté until the garlic begins to color. Add the tomatoes and the salt. Tear the hot red pepper in half, if using, and add it to the skillet. Simmer briskly for 1 to 2 minutes to soften the tomatoes and develop the flavor. Add the wine and the mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. With tongs, transfer the mussels to a bowl, leaving the tomato sauce behind in the skillet. Discard the garlic, parsley sprigs, and hot pepper, if using. Set aside two dozen mussels in their shells. Remove the remaining mussels from their shells and discard the shells.

  3. In a 4-quart (4-liter) pot, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce from the skillet and the saffron, adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes.

  4. Begin adding a ladleful of the hot broth about 1 cup/125 milliliters at a time, just enough to barely cover the rice. Adjust the heat so that the risotto bubbles steadily but not vigorously. Stir often until all the liquid has been absorbed, then add another ladleful of broth. It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to become al dente; the grains should be firm but not chalky at the core and the risotto should be creamy, neither soupy nor stiff. You may not need all the broth. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the minced parsley and the mussels, both shelled and unshelled. Taste for seasoning; the risotto will probably have sufficient salt. Serve immediately in bowls.


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