Recipe: Actor Joe Mantegna’s Contribution to Your Christmas Feast of The Seven Fishes

It is that time of year again, when the Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes” is upon us. As you may know, this seafood heavy celebration is much more of a southern Italian and Italian-American tradition than something universally Italian. This year I have a celebrity seafood dish for you to add to your repertoire. As you may know, actor Joe Mantegna joined me this year to host the pledge breaks for the PBS special Dream of Italy: Travel, Transform and Thrive. He also contributed to the recipe booklet which is one of the pledge premiums for PBS donors.

Joe contributed two recipes – his famous Spaghetti Carbonara which was featured on his series Criminal Minds – and a family recipe, Mussels Mantegna! He says it is a tip of the hat to his brother Ron, who took an old family recipe and twisted it around a little bit and came up with something great. The mushrooms are a unique addition to traditional mussels. Whip up this recipe and dream of the Italian coastline this Christmas season!

Serves 4


  • 2 to 3 lbs mussels, fresh and tightly closed
  • 1 small onion, or 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 (14½ oz) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil or oregano, to taste (optional)


  1. Scrub and debeard the mussels. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy stockpot, over medium heat, sauté onion or shallots in butter and oil until transparent. Add mushrooms and garlic to onion and sauté until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and add wine to just cover the bottom of the stockpot. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and black pepper. 
  3. Add mussels and cover tightly to steam. Carefully shaking the pot every 30 seconds, cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Mussels are done when all the shells are open. Discard any that do not open. Check the broth and adjust seasoning, adding basil or oregano. 
  4. Divide mussels among deep individual serving bowls. Carefully pour cooking liquid over mussels, but do not use the last of the liquid in the pot because it may contain shell fragments. 

Photo credit: Stephanie McClendon