I love this dish, which is often called "Mussels Fra Diavolo", because my Italian Grandmother made it often, especially around the holidays. The lusty combination of mussels and spicy red sauce is irresistible. It's Italian-American comfort food. Forget about serving this with pasta, you absolutely must have a loaf of crusty, chewy Italian or French bread to dip in the sauce. Make sure to put an empty bowl on the table to accommodate the shells. For equipment you will need a large (10 to 12 inch) high sided saute pan (sauteuse) or a 6 to 6 quart pot with a tight fitting lid, a large spoon, and a Chinese wire mesh skimmer or slotted spoon. Red Sauce: I know my red sauce. My credentials: I grew up at the Jersey Shore, I had an Italian grandmother and I worked as a cook at Marenzi Restaurant in North Beach, San Francisco, back in the 1970's. This recipe is one for you to keep. My Napolitano red sauce is a great building block to making all sorts of dishes. It can be used to for a quick pasta dinner or for simmering fresh squash and/or bell peppers and onion. You can also use this red sauce as a base to make a "fra diavolo" with mussels, lobster or other sea food, even with leftovers and serve with rice or pasta. The most important concept in making this sauce is to really brown (caramelize) the onions and carrots, creating a natural sweetness that balances with the acidic tomatoes. For equipment you will need a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, and a wooden spoon.
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