Upgrade classic spaghetti in clam sauce with this veggie packed version with braised kale and roasted red pepper sauce.
Making the decision to follow a plant-based diet opens you up to a ton of questions about your eating habits and nutrition. The most common question, as I’m sure any vegan or vegetarian can attest: how do you get enough protein? Considering the amount of protein in many plant based foods and the fact that the average meat-eating American is eating double the amount of protein they need, it’s kind of a moot point (or moo point, as I like to call it). Vegetarians and vegans are easily able to get enough protein without any more meal planning than the average meat-eater.
In general, moving towards a vegan or vegetarian pattern of eating naturally moves you towards a healthier, more plant focused pattern of eating. By eating more plants, aka natures multivitamin, you eat more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
There is one nutrient of concern however, and that’s B12. B12 is produced by certain strains of bacteria. No plant, animal or fungi are capable of producing it. It can only be obtained in animal foods and a few fermented foods. While vegetarians are able to get B12 from dairy and eggs, vegans are at especially high risk, although it should be noted, B12 deficiency is common in meat eaters and vegans alike. You can take a supplement, but there's controversy over the effectiveness of b12 supplements versus what's found in food.
So, that leads us to question #1. What does this have to do with Good Mood Food? B12 is one of the most important nutrients for brain health and the nervous system. Deficiency has been linked to cognitive decline, depression, fatigue and anxiety.
Now, my smart readers may be wondering what all this talk of vegan/vegetarian nutrition has to do with a recipe for pasta in clam sauce, which is clearly neither. Clams happen to be the best food source of vitamin b12 with a 3 ounce serving providing a whopping 1,500% daily needs. Because clams and other bivalves like mussels and oysters, do not have a central nervous system, there is a growing group of ethical vegans and vegetarians that will eat them. Also, although farming seafood is generally a environmentally harmful practice, clams, mussels and oysters help filter the water and keep it clean.
That said, the decision to go vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons is a highly personal one and I'd never tell someone where they should draw the line. But it's important to know it's an option so you can make that decision for yourself.
Also, this pasta, it's really really yummy.
Growing up, we ate pasta with a garlicky clam sauce pretty frequently. Sure, it was packed wHoith B12, but it was also packed with white flour and what I presume was an hefty dose of butter. Mmm, but it was delicious (and still is when I recreate it with whole grain pasta and olive oil > butter).
However, I am a major supporter of vegetables in pasta, so when I stumbled across this recipe for spaghetti with clam sauce and roasted red peppers and greens, I had to have it. And it was so good, I had to share it with you!
Spaghetti with Clam Sauce and Braised Kale
Adapted from Food & Wine.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, 4 minced, 4 smashed and peeled
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 lb canned clams, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
- 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 12 ounces kale, stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 lb whole grain spaghetti
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot on medium high heat. Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds until fragrant. Add white wine, 1/2 cup liquid from clams and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add to a blender with roasted red peppers and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to directions, drain and set aside until ready to use.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium high heat. Add crushed garlic and crushed red pepper and saute 30 seconds until fragrant. Add kale, 1/4 cup water, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing frequently until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add a few more tablespoons of water as needed to wilt. Add roasted red pepper sauce, clams, spaghetti, lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve.