Fisherman’s spaghetti with courgettes and mussels

I once read somewhere, that in a certain part of Italy the fishermen eat spaghetti with courgettes, olive oil and garlic on days when they have no fish. For some reason, I have remembered this little fact for years. This will surprise anyone who knows me and my inability to remember facts, peoples’ names, even songs I love. But with food it’s different and the image of these fishermen, tired from a day’s hard work and salty air, worn out from the sun, the toil, but somehow essentially content from living a life so close to nature… has always stayed with me. And I have made this dish many times, with many variations, and always with a thought for the fishermen. This one was the best I’ve made so far. Since they are fishermen, I reasoned, it therefore follows that this kind of dish would be especially good with something that comes from the sea. I imagined a fisherman’s wife casually throwing in a handful of fresh seafood into the pan. Just like the mussels that I had left over from the paella we made the other night. As you can see if you clicked on that link, the paella really couldn’t handle any more of them

I felt really mean waking up the mussels by splashing cold water on them until they closed their shells, then boiling them alive, but what can you do… I boiled them in fish stock with saffron. At the same time I also boiled the spaghetti in salt water, until it was al dente. In the massive frying pan, I fried small, fine, almost translucent chunks of courgette and garlic in plenty of olive oil, and some sea salt. Finally, I added both the spaghetti and the mussels to the pan, along with a splash of the saffron stock. I cooked this for a while longer, adding more stock to make sure it didn’t burn, and squeezed some lemon in right at the end. I served it with ground black pepper and some cold beer. I love to imagine that by eating this some little part of me is right there with the fishermen, in a cosy kitchen somewhere in Italy