Molly Malone’s Seafood Pasta

Molly Malone’s Seafood Pasta

The beautiful Molly Malone may have been a fictional character who plied her trade as a fishmonger through the streets of Dublin but it’s the folk song written in her name that’s the lasting legacy.

In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels alive, alive, oh!”

“Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh,”
Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

If you ever visit Dublin, look out for her somewhat buxom statue and cart on Grafton Street and if you’re in the City on June 13th you’ll help celebrate National Molly Malone Day.

This recipe takes her name because of the cockles and mussels that feature.

Traditionally eaten in Ireland with oatcakes, fresh cockles are delicious and taste completely different to those that are cooked and stuffed in plastic, or those that are pickled and stuffed in jars, a shame as they’re available fresh all year round. Mussels are one of my favourite shellfish and have a long season from October to March. Sadly, the fishmonger at Waitrose had neither those or cockles, fresh. What I did buy was Carr’s vacuum packed Mussels in White Wine, sourced directly from local farmers and cultivated in waters off the Irish Atlantic. They are grown on rope which ensures they are kept from the seabed to eliminate grit and dirt.

This is a a recipe for 4 starter portions.

Takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and roughly between 10 to 30 minutes cooking time.


1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 stalks of parsley
200g dried spaghetti
1 fish stock cube, made up with 50mls hot water
Pepper – no salt
30ml Avonmore Double Cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 90g pack of cooked cockles

If using fresh shell-on seafood you’ll need 300g of mussels and 250g of cockles (get a few extra to compensate for those that don’t open). You’ll also need 150ml dry white wine to steam them in (keep the juices to add to the sauce).


Heat a pan of salted, cold water to cook the spaghetti. When it starts to boil add the pasta. Cook it according to the packet instructions.

Chop the onion into small cubes.

De-seed and chop the chilli into fine pieces.

Mince the 2 garlic cloves.

Heat the Rapeseed Oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, fry until translucent then add the chilli and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes more. If it starts to stick, add the fish stock.

Stock infusing

Meanwhile, cook the Carr’s mussels according to the packet – microwave for 2 minutes. Drain off the juice from the mussels – and add that to the pan. At this point taste the liquid, I found it didn’t need salt but added ground pepper. Add 2 stalks of parsley.

Add the cream which must be at room temperature, otherwise it will curdle when you add it to the hot stock.

Remove the parsley stalks from the sauce.

Drain the pasta, and add the spaghetti to the pan. Ensure that the spaghetti is well coated in the sauce.

Spaghetti in cream sauce

Time to add the seafood but discard any mussels that haven’t opened. You just want to heat them, overcooked cockles are like chewing on a pencil-top rubber.

Serve with a little chopped parsley sprinkled on each.

Cockle and Mussel pasta

Plate of Molly Malone's Pasta

If using uncooked, shell-on seafood

If you have fresh shell-on seafood you’ll need to cook them. Before you start, remove any beards – the fibrous tufts – from each mussel and scrub the shells clean. Get rid of any that don’t open if you tap them against a hard surface.

Add the wine to a large saucepan and boil, add the cockles and mussels.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid, shaking occasionally, and cook for 3-4 minutes until all shells have opened. Remove from the heat, and drain in a colander, but ensure you have a bowl underneath to catch the cooking juice.

Place a fine sieve over a measuring jug and strain the liquid. Add all the shelled fish and the reserved juice, bit by bit to the pan and use your judgement, you want the sauce to be thick enough to coat the pasta, so not too thin. Put the fish back in the lidded pan to keep warm until you need to add them to the spaghetti and sauce.

Continue with the recipe above at the point of tasting the liquid for seasoning.

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