Zuppa di muscoli (mussel soup)
( SERVES 4 )
Soup is an ancient way of cooking that flourishes when you have almost no kitchen and space for only one pot in the fireplace; when you must feed a lot of hungry mouths attached to fingers eagerly holding bread to dip; and when you have no time to watch what you are cooking and want something you can leave bubbling on top of the ashes. It's also a handy way to create two courses from one cooking pot - boiled chicken providing the broth as an entrée and then the chicken as the main course.
- Discard any mussels that have already opened. Place the mussels in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium to high heat and pour in the wine.
- As soon as the mussels open, transfer to a bowl (discard any that don't open) and retain the liquid in the pan. Take the mussels out of their shells, apart from 4 for the garnish, chop roughly and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat until translucent - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and mix thoroughly, then stir in the reserved liquid from the mussels and cook for 15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring regularly. Add the chopped mussels, sprinkle in the pepper and oregano and stir for 3 minutes. Toast the bread, rub the slices with garlic, then place the slices in 4 bowls. Pour the soup over the toast, add a mussel in its shell, sprinkle with basil and serve.