So many oysters, so little time. Italian Baked Oysters may look fancy, but it’s really quite simple and definitely no-angst. Sweet Daddy D’s attempt to replicate Oysters Mosca combines fresh raw oysters with a sauce made of butter, olive oil, and Creole Italian seasonings. The dish is then covered in seasoned breadcrumbs and a touch of parmesan cheese and baked to a golden brown. One taste and you will know why Oysters Mosca is a world-renown example of Creole Italian cuisine.
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What is Oysters Mosca?
Any serious observer of South Louisiana cuisine knows not to judge a book by its cover. Simple, down-to-earth family and neighborhood restaurants are just as likely to offer world-class cuisine as the high-profile haute cuisine of the grandest Creole restaurants in the city. The best example of Italian Baked Oysters comes from such a place. Housed in a nondescript frame house along a lonely stretch of Highway 90 on the West Bank of the river, across from downtown New Orleans, is Mosca’s Restaurant.
Established by Sicilian immigrants in 1946, Moscas is recognized as one of the best Italian restaurants in a city known for its cuisine. Their creation, Oysters Mosca, is an institution in itself, gaining international acclaim. The oysters baked beneath the breadcrumb and parmesan topping are bathed in a sauce of butter and olive oil with tons of garlic and common Creole Italian seasonings. I could find no official recipe from Mosca's so my recipe here is taken from common interpretations and my own taste testing. (Rugged duty, but someone has to do it!)
Here’s What You Need
Green Onions (Spring Onions) can be substituted for the shallots.
Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
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Here’s What You Do
First..you have a beer. This is one of those recipes that is fun to make and fun to eat. It elevates the spirit. It’s not a complicated recipe but will be much more fun to make if you are prepared. Your mise en place starts with a beer. While you sip, read the recipe from top to bottom. Know what ingredients and equipment you will need and how to prepare them. All that's left is assembly in a simple and no-angst way. What can I say?
Mise en Place
Drain the Oysters in a strainer placed over a bowl or large measuring cup to catch the oyster liquor. Place the whole rig in the refrigerator while it's draining and until needed. We will reserve the oyster liquid to be used in the sauce. Once the oysters have been draining for a little while, sort through the oysters with a spatula or your fingers to make sure there are no broken pieces of shell. I am a proponent of straining the oyster liquid again before it's used.
Combine the Herb and Spice Blend in a small prep bowl. Chop the shallots, garlic and parsley, squeeze the lemon and measure out the remaining ingredients.
The seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese can be combined with about half of the Herb and Spice Blend and placed in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make the sauce
What happens in this step? Here we are going to build the sauce that brings the other flavors together. A garlicky, buttery sauce with shallots and Creole Italian seasonings is the basis for this dish.
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallots to the skillet.
Stir well and saute for about 1 minute, then add the garlic and parsley. Saute this mixture until it's aromatic which should only take about 2 minutes.
Add about ½ cup of the oyster liquor and bring the mixture to a heavy simmer. Next, throw in the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Stir well and simmer until reduced by at least half.
Tip: When we reduce the sauce, we are letting the water component evaporate, allowing the remaining ingredients and flavors to concentrate.
Here is a way I have screwed this recipe up: It's almost impossible to mess up the flavor, but reducing the sauce to the right amount can be a little tricky. The quantity of the completed sauce should be enough to mix well with the oysters and heavily coat the bottom of the baking dish.
Set the reduced sauce aside to cool slightly before mixing with the oysters.
Assemble and bake the casserole
What happens in his step? Now we’ll take this delicious butter-garlic sauce and combine it with fresh oysters, then cover the whole thing with a generous portion of seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. It will be baked to unmistakable perfection.
Prepare a low-sided baking dish by applying a light coating of olive oil to the inside. Place the oysters in the prepared baking dish and pour the sauce over the oysters. Mix to combine, then distribute the oysters in a single layer with a little space between the oysters.
Sprinkle a generous layer of the breadcrumb and parmesan cheese mixture liberally over the oysters. Make sure to cover the casserole completely. You may not use all of the breadcrumb mixture. (see Hints and Tips) Spread the breadcrumbs evenly, then lightly dust the top with more parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of olive oil.
Place the casserole into a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the whole thing is golden brown.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes, then serve immediately.
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Hints and Tips (FAQs)
Oysters Mosca can be served as an appetizer or an entree. All it needs is a green salad and some crisp french bread, but buttered pasta is great on the side.
The breadcrumb, parmesan, and Herb and Spice mixture should completely cover the casserole dish. The amount this will take depends on the size of your baking dish. You may not use all of the mixtures, but just make sure to cover the entire dish with around ⅛ inch of the topping.
Fresh and cooked Oysters can be frozen but we should keep a couple of things in mind. First, freezing should always be done in an appropriate airtight freezer container. You should label the contents with the date you put them in the freezer. If you freeze fresh oysters, they should not be eaten raw once they have defrosted. You should also not refreeze oysters (fresh or cooked) once they have defrosted. Defrosted fresh oysters can be used in cooked dishes with no problem. Freezing may affect the texture of the oysters but the flavor should be fine.
Leftover Baked Oysters can be kept in the refrigerator or the freezer if held in a shallow, air-tight container. Let the oysters cool; refrigerate or freeze them within two hours of cooking. Cooked oysters will stay safe in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen Baked Oysters in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Return the oysters to a baking dish and reheat it in a 400 degrees oven for about 10 minutes or until heated all the way through.
Overall, oysters are very healthy for you being low in calories and high in quality proteins and important nutrients. They are also a great source of Vitamin B12, zinc, copper, and important antioxidants. Due to the nature of oysters and their natural habitats, they may contain bacteria and other contaminants. This is usually only a concern in raw oysters and is curbed by cooking. That being said, if one has some health challenges, check before eating raw oysters. If you want to know more about the nutritional value of oysters, check out this short article.
Save it for use in stocks, gumbos, or other oyster recipes! If you have more than you need for the current recipe, don’t let it go to waste. Pour the juice through a strainer to catch any broken shell pieces or grit, then place it in an airtight container, label it and freeze it for up to 3 months. You’ll be glad you have it when you need it.
Try these other great oyster recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Italian Baked Oysters (Oysters Mosca)
Here's What You Need
- 1 pint Oysters about 18 to 24 oysters
- ½ cup Oyster liquor use as much or as little as you need.
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil plus some for the top
- ¼ cup Shallots finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Garlic 5-6 cloves finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
- 1 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
- ½ cup Parmesan Cheese finely grated; plus some for top
Herb and Spice Blend
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon dry Basil
- ½ teaspoon dry Thyme
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
Here's What You Do
- Drain the Oysters-reserve the liquor
- Combine the Herb and Spice Blend, set aside; chop the garlic, shallots, and parsley. Measure the remaining ingredients.
- Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan and add ½ of the Herb and Spice Blend, set aside. Reserve the remaining Herb and Spice Blend.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Make the casserole
- Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter with the olive oil in the skillet.
- When the butter is bubbly, add shallots to the skillet, stir well and saute for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and parsley and saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes
- Add the oyster liquor and bring the mixture to a heavy simmer. (See Notes)
- Add the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, Worchestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Stir well and simmer until reduced by at least half.
- Set aside to cool slightly
Assemble and bake the casserole
- Prepare a baking dish by applying a light coating of olive oil to the inside
- Place the oysters in a baking dish, then add the garlic-butter mixture and stir well to combine
- Once mixed, arrange the oysters in a single layer with some space between them
- Sprinkle the Breadcrumbs-Parmesan Cheese mixture over the oysters (see Notes)
- Spread evenly; lightly dust the top with more parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of olive oil.
- Place the baking dish into the preheated oven; bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.