Rather than playing at making fresh pasta, reach for the best dry stuff you can find in stores and dress it in fine style.

As a sensible cook, I will most often reach for the very best dried pasta I can find – and that is very important indeed.

Linguine with mussels and saffron

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Half a teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 1tbspn tomato passata
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 1kg mussels (a kilogram of mussels may seem a lot for two, but I like a lot of them in my linguine)
  • 150g thin linguine (durum-wheat)
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1tbspn snipped chives

Method
In a small bowl, cover the saffron with 2 tbspn of boiling water. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the linguine. Now, using a roomy, lidded pot, fry the onions and garlic in the butter until softened, then stir in the passata. Pour in the wine, allow it to bubble for a couple of minutes and tip in the mussels. Stir them around a bit and cover the pot.

Leave the mussels to steam for a few minutes, then shake the topmost layer to the bottom, revealing those from beneath to the surface. Replace the lid and cook for a minute longer. Once all the mussels are clearly open, tip them into a colander suspended over another large pan and leave to drain while you shell the mussels into a bowl. Once done, remove the colander and discard the shells. Now, get the pasta cooking.

Bring the drained mussel liquor to the boil and reduce by about half. Add the cream and continue simmering until slightly thickened. Stir in the mussels, chopped tomatoes, chives and soaked saffron. Drain the pasta and quickly add to the sauced mussels. Carefully stir together until all is well distributed. Serve at once, on hot plates.