After a ridiculous tsunami of multiple family illnesses, deaths, work crisis, dental emergencies and a sick dog, there's really nothing left to do but pour yourself a glass of good wine, and watch a good meal practically create itself (and yes, I do find chopping all of that garlic cathartic). We used rotini because that's all that was in the pantry - go ahead and use the pasta shape of your choice. It helps to have some excellent crusty bread on hand - there will be plenty of sauce leftover for dipping.
—zest in the midwest
mussels, scrubbed and debearded (note: here in the midwest, often the frozen pasteurized mussels taste better than the fresh ones we get - use your judgement based on your geography)
pint homemade tomato sauce (in a pinch, blend a can of good quality diced tomatoes)
cloves garlic, finely minced
red pepper flakes (use more or less to taste - depending on your preference for heat)
sweet onion, chopped
Handful of good quality green olives brined with garlic (optional)
Start the pasta water: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water is heating, add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and onion to a large skillet. Cook on medium heat, until onions become soft.
Add the garlic and saute until the garlic becomes fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for another two minutes.
Pour in the white wine and tomato sauce - stir gently until the mixture begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. (If all diners are ok with the olives, add them to the sauce now. If there are anti-olive people in your home, go ahead and just top the finished dish with a few olives before serving for those who desire to consume the briny goodness.)
At this point, the pasta water should be ready. Add pasta to pot and stir gently.
While pasta is cooking, add the mussels to the sauce. Cover the pot while the mussels cook and open.
Drain the pasta and return to the pasta pot. Toss with the butter.
Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Place the pasta in bowls, spooning plenty of sauce and mussels in each.