Sunday, December 6, 2015

Midopilafo - Greek mussel pilaf with tomatoes

I’ve always loved rice, ever since I was a kid. I could eat it every day and I wouldn’t get tired of its flavor one bit.

I generally prefer rice to pasta or potatoes, especially if it is accompanied by seafood; langoustines, prawns, calamari, octopus, mussels, you name it. Mussels, however, are my favorite when it comes to pairing them with rice because they are one of the two basic ingredients for the glorious midopilafo, a traditional Greek mussel and rice dish.

Some years ago, I shared with you my recipe for Greek mussel pilaf in its “white” version, meaning without a tomato sauce. Made with long-grain rice, raisins and pine nuts, red and green peppers, green onions and lots of dill, it is amazing and always a huge success when I make it for friends and family.

The time has come nevertheless to share with you my other midopiafo, the “red” one, meaning made with tomatoes, that has a special place in my heart. It is made with Greek Karolina rice, a rice similar to Abrorio, so it’s creamier than the white midopilafo, with canned plum tomatoes (although in the summertime you can substitute with fresh tomatoes), tomato paste and of course onions and garlic.

I always use mussels in their shells for my mussel pilaf firstly because their taste is superior to that of the ready shelled versions and secondly because the precious liquid resulting from steaming them is incomparable.

Furthermore, the fact that you can flavor them with various ingredients during steaming is crucial in the final result of the dish, as these ingredients will also flavor the pilaf. In this case, I steamed the mussels in Chardonnay with a couple of bay leaves, a few black peppercorns and some sprigs of fresh parsley.

This Greek mussel pilaf is one of a kind. The rice is creamy, moist and soft and envelops the plump and juicy mussels that smell intensely of the sea. The tomato sauce is light yet full-flavored and is not overpowering the sumptuous and almost sweet flavor of the mussels, while the herbs add freshness to the dish.

P.S. As mentioned in my three previous posts, apart from your votes, there’s a judges panel of the Greek VIMA Gourmet Food Blog Awards competition, that will judge specific recipes submitted for the competition using sponsors’ ingredients. One of its sponsors is #Knorr. So, this mussel pilaf is submitted for one of the categories I’m nominated in, “Best Cooking Blog”. If you wish, you can still vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. You will make me very happy if you do. Thank you very much for your support!!

Greek mussel pilaf with tomatoes (Midopilafo kokkinisto / Μυδοπίλαφο κοκκινιστό)

Mussels in their shells may need more time to prepare but they are worth it because their flavor is far better than those of the ready shelled ones.
You will need 1.2 το 1.3 kg of mussels but since not all mussels you are going to buy will be usable (some will have broken shells while others will not close when tapped) you have to buy a larger quantity of mussels—I would say about half a kilo more.

The rice used in this dish is Karolina rice, a very typical type of white, medium-grain rice used a lot in Greek cooking, but the Italian Arborio rice would work perfectly as well.
For 500g of rice you’ll need to add 1,200 ml liquid (mussel liquid plus water). If you end up with more mussel liquid, add less water. If you end up with less mussel liquid, compensate with more water.

It is a perfect dish for a celebratory or holiday dinner, served in a large platter in the middle of the table, and don’t forget to pair the midopilafo with the same wine that you used to flavor the dish with.

And if you want my other version of midopilafo, without tomatoes, find it here.

Yield: 6 servings


for the mussels
1.2 -1.3 kg whole mussels in their shells
120 ml dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
2 dried bay leaves
10 black whole peppercorns
3 Tbsp water
A handful of fresh parsley stalks

for the pilaf
75 ml (5 Tbsp) olive oil
2 onions (165 g net weight), finely chopped or whizzed in a food processor
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or whizzed in a food processor
1 fish stock pot (I used Knorr)
400 g canned whole tomatoes, puréed
1 heaped tsp tomato paste
500 g Abrorio rice (or Greek Karolina rice if you can find it)
½ tsp salt (plus more at the end if you think it needs it)
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Half a handful of fresh dill leaves, finely chopped
450 ml mussel liquid (if you have more, add less water / if you have less, add more water)
750 ml hot water

Special equipment: colander, fine sieve, muslin or cheese cloth, brush (for cleaning the mussels), small food processor


Cleaning the mussels
Read here my detailed instructions on how to clean mussels.

Cooking the mussels
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add the mussels, wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, water and parsley stalks. Turn heat on to medium-high and close the lid. When steam starts to get released from the sides of the pan, turn heat down to medium, shake the pan gently and let mussels steam for about 5 minutes or until their shells have opened. Shake the pan every minute or so, in order to ensure the even cooking of the mussels. Don’t shake the pan too hard because the shells might break. Be careful not to overcook the mussels because they will dry out and become rubbery. You need them to be plump and juicy.

Drain the mussels and reserve the liquid. Discard any mussels that did not open while steaming. Set mussels aside and cover them to keep them warm.
Pass the mussel liquid through a fine sieve lined with a muslin or cheese cloth to get rid of any sand or impurities, and into a bowl, and measure it. Set mussel liquid aside.

Prepare the pilaf
In another large, heavy-bottomed pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, being careful because it might catch. Add the tomato paste and stir well. Then add the puréed tomatoes, the stock pot, salt and pepper and stir well until the stock pot dissolves.

Add the rice and stir well, then add the mussel liquid and the water (taking care to have the right amount of liquids) and stir well. Bring mixture to the boil, close the lid and immediately turn heat down to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked (check the rice after 15 minutes because not all rice brands are the same). In the end, the rice shouldn’t be al dente nor should it be mushy, but it should be soft. There must be some thick juices and the rice itself should be a little moist and creamy, not dry.


Turn the heat off and add the mussels, parsley and dill leaves (keep some for sprinkling on top at the end) and mix gently so the mussels don’t break apart. Check the seasoning and if it needs more salt, add it.

Let stand for 5 minutes and then serve with some extra parsley and dill sprinkled over the top.


  1. Magda - mussels are one of my absolute favorite foods and, when we lived inMaine, they were so easily gotten. Now in the desert, it is a little harder but some of the restaurants will help supply me. As soon as I can get some, I am making this for Mark and me for dinner. Maybe we will invite someone to join us... or maybe we will be piggy and eat the whole pot! ~ David

    1. Here in the Netherlands there is a whole culture surrounding mussels. They have some of the best in Europe. Loved using them in my Greek dish
      The whole pot sounds good! :)

  2. Oh my goodness, Magda. I haven't even tried this dish and I'm already in love with it. It combines all the tastes that I have come to love most in my life. There is nothing like delicious steamed mussels, and you live in just the place to really enjoy it! I have promised my boyfriend (another Mediterranean with a deep love for octopus and calamari) that this will without a doubt be on our table tonight. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much Nora. I do hope you enjoy it if you try it! x