The impepata di cozze (peppered mussels) is a traditional dish of the Neapolitan cuisine; it is simple to prepare but, at the same time, extremely tasty. It can be served like a starter or as a second fish course. Its main characteristic is the freshness of the seafood. The term impepata comes from the Italian verb impepare, which means to add pepper or season with pepper. In a figurative sense, however, it can also mean to add spicy details to a story to make it more interesting.
A brief history of impepata di cozze
The history of impepata di cozze features two main characters: a king and a priest. The first is Ferdinand I of Bourbon, king of Naples from 1759 to 1816, who inspired this typical recipe. He really liked fish dishes and in particular mussels. Legend has it that the king used to fish his mussels personally in the wonderful bay of Naples. Furthermore, the king had his peculiar habits, like most sovereigns, and used to demand different specific preparations for his dishes. The second character is the priest Gregorio Maria Rocco, who asked the king to follow a balanced diet during the Lent period. Ferdinand I was deeply religious and accepted the priest’s advice, so he ordered the cooks to season the mussels with only a few ingredients: garlic, oil, black pepper and parsley.
Where to eat some impepata di cozze
Impepata di cozze is a typical Neapolitan dish, therefore in Naples you will easily find many restaurants that have it on their menus. The most famous ones for this dish are located in the city centre, so you will be able to visit some charming places of Naples too, such as the Royal Botanical Garden in via Foria and Borgo Marinaro, surrounding the famous Castel dell’Ovo. Other places where you can eat the typical impepata di cozze are located between the famous Mercandante Theatre and the ancient castle Maschio Angioino, near the harbour. If you pay a visit to these places, you will have a complete Neapolitan experience, which includes gastronomic, cultural and touristic aspects.
How to prepare impepata di cozze
Ingredients for 4 people:
- mussels (1 kg)
- black pepper
- parsley (1 bunch)
- clove of garlic (2)
- spicy red chili peppers (1)
- extra virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons)
- lemon juice (optional)
- white wine
Preparation of the impepata di cozze:
- Clean the mussels, remove the “beard” that comes out of the shell and any impurities.
- Chop the parsley and garlic, then fry them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil and hot pepper.
- Add the mussels and a splash of white wine, while keeping the pan on high heat.
- Let the mussels begin to open, then add a pinch of black pepper.
- When the mussels will be completely open, turn off the heat and bring them to the table. You may serve them with lemon wedges.
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Written by Fabio Scamardella, PhD student in “European Languages and Specialized Terminology” at the University of Naples “Parthenope”.