One-Pot Wonders

Mussels with Fennel, Italian Sausage & Pernod

March 18, 2013
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

I love this recipe. I had it on my menu a million years ago back when I had to special order fennel pollen by mail from the one farmer in California who sold it. It has stood the test of time and is so super delicious. There's fennel in all its guises, yet it is not overwhelmingly fennel-y.

You could sub arak or ouzo for the Pernod, but I would steer clear of anisette or sambuca (too sweet). —Aliwaks

Test Kitchen Notes

What a wonderful recipe -- rich in flavors and textures, and a great way to indulge a love of fennel! The recipe comes together easily; using a mandoline makes the prep work a breeze. I made this for company and did all the sautéing ahead of time, waiting until just the last minute to add the mussels and the finishing touches. The sauce is heavenly with just the right amount of fennel flavor and heat. The sausage tucks away and becomes a little treasure when discovered, complementing the caramelized fennel and mussels. Overall, a beautifully composed dish that is sure to delight anyone around your dinner table! —SwoonMySpoon

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds freshest wild mussels
  • 1 link Italian sausage with fennel
  • 2 large bulbs fennel sliced thin, fronds reserved
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup Pernod
  • 1 tablespoon fennel pollen, divided
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pinch saffron, in 2 tablespoons warm water
  1. Rinse and debeard mussels, discarding any that will not close. Refrigerate them in a bowl with ice and/or cold water.
  2. Remove the sausage casing. In a lidded pot big enough to hold the mussels, brown sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Remove sausage to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add another tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Add fennel and shallots and sauté over medium heat until the fennel softens and begins to caramelize.
  5. Remove the fennel and shallots and set aside (with sausage).
  6. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot with the garlic, red pepper flakes and saffron. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add Pernod and bring to a boil.
  8. Add rinsed mussels, cover pot, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the mussels open.
  9. Add the half and half, sausage, fennel, and half of the fennel pollen. Cook an additional 3 minutes, shaking the pot a few more times.
  10. To serve, sprinkle the mussels with the remaining fennel pollen and a handful of fennel fronds. An additional drizzle of olive is nice, too.
  11. Serve with crusty bread, lightly toasted and rubbed with garlic.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Julia Quagliarello
    Julia Quagliarello
  • Sophia R
    Sophia R
  • darksideofthespoon
  • QueenSashy
  • Aliwaks

12 Reviews

Kathleen February 24, 2020
Echoing everyone else’s thoughts, this recipe was simply delicious. I did orderthe fennel pollen, and it was worth it. The only deviation I made was using 2 links of sausage instead of one, which my guests enjoyed eating alongside the mussels and piled up on crusty bread. I didn’t think it was too much effort, really- simply sautéing and dumping. Came together quickly, will definitely make again!
kblakely August 28, 2019
OMG -- This was one of the best recipes we've ever tried! Yes, it does take a little work but it is worth it. Had to order the fennel pollen from a ranch in California but it arrived quickly. Also subbed heavy cream for the half and half because that was what was available. Ordered wild mussels from our local market in Newport and they were wonderful. Purchased the fennel and fronds from the farmer's market and they too were the biggest and best we've found. Should have purchased the best baguette but settled for a nice french loaf. Even the husband (who does not really care for mussels) adored this.
Shortrib July 19, 2015
Great recipe! I didn't have the pollen or the saffron, but it's nonetheless our new favorite mussel dish. There's no salt mentioned, and that's just fine since the mussels give up enough on their own. Both of us ate up the broth with a spoon, which speaks loads.
cheesecakegirl February 13, 2015
I am in love with seafood and absolutely LOVE this recipe! Although I do not have the fennel pollen (not yet...) I was delighted! Thank you, Cheesecakegirl
fmacmac December 31, 2014
This is delicious - making again tonight to celebrate New Year's Eve. Don't have fennel pollen; but fine without.
Mary August 12, 2014
The broth is absolutely delicious so have plenty of crusty bread handy. But way too much fennel-1 bulb would be plenty. Definitely will make again.
Julia Q. June 25, 2014
meridian65 May 1, 2013
Is the pollen a make or break ingredient? This sounds heavenly but won't be able to find pollen where I live unfortunately!
Sophia R. April 24, 2013
This sounds so wonderful - now that the temperatures are rising again I would love to sit somewhere on a nice balcony with a bowl of this in front of me, some good sourdough bread to mop up the juices and a cold glass of sparkling wine or rose to wash it all down!
Aliwaks April 24, 2013
I think I'll join you Sounds PERFECT!
darksideofthespoon April 11, 2013
I knew this recipe was either going to be a finalist or a CP. Congrats, I can't wait to try this!
QueenSashy April 11, 2013
This is my kind of dish! I am going to be making it in the next couple of days. Congrats on the CP