My take on Martha Rose Shulman's recipe from the New York Times Cooking site.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe that doesn't require any specialized skills. But there are quite a few steps to it so I would recommend allowing 50 minutes or so for the preparation.
1 28 ounce can chopped or whole tomatoes
3 fat garlic cloves; 1 crushed, 2 chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
½ cup dry white wine
2 pounds cleaned mussels
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or marjoram, or both
¼ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
¾ pound linguine or other pasta
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Place a good amount (about 4 or 5 inches depth) of cold tap water in a sink.
Place the mussels in it to help get rid of the sand and salt.
Empty the tin of tomatoes into a food processor and rinse the residue out of the can with a scant tablespoon white wine.
Give the tomatoes a couple of quick pulses to break them down into a coarse purée.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.
Remove the mussels one by one from the sink with fingers and place in a bowl.
Avoid scooping as the sand has precipitated to the bottom.
Pour the white wine into a large skillet or saucepan with a lid, add the crushed garlic and chopped shallot and bring to the boil.
Add the mussels.
Cover the pot and cook at a simmer, shaking pan from time to time, 2 to 4 minutes.
Remove the lid and, using tongs, transfer any mussels that have opened up to a clean bowl.
If any mussels have not opened, re-cover the skillet and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Do not pry open any closed mussels – discard them.
Set the opened mussels aside to cool.
Place the pasta into the boiling water and stir.
Place a strainer over another bowl or measuring jug, line with cheesecloth, and strain the liquid from the skillet into this
Set the strained liquid aside.
Rinse and dry the skillet or saucepan.
In this skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes.
Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Pour in all the tomatoes from the processor and add the thyme or marjoram (or both), and the sugar.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to the boil.
Stirring frequently boil for 5 to 10 minutes or so, until tomatoes have cooked down slightly.
Meanwhile remove about half the mussels from their shells and set aside. Discard the empty shells.
When you estimate the pasta is about a minute or so from the desired doneness, drain it well and add to the tomato mixture. (*)
Add ½ a cup of the strained mussel water you set aside.
Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Tip all mussels, shelled and unshelled, into the pasta and sauce and stir gently to mix thoroughly.
Serve in a large bowl with an empty bowl to receive the shells.
(*) Finishing off the cooking of the pasta in the sauce allows it to absorb the rich taste. However, if you think you will have leftovers, having the pasta in the sauce will allow the pasta to absorb quite a bit of the sauce and swell slightly overnight. Some people do not like this consistency in their pasta. So if you are planning on keeping some for another meal, cook the spaghetti to completion in its water, drain, put just what you need for the current meal in a warmed bowl and serve the mussels and their sauce separately in another bowl.