Linguine with Steamed Mussels, Puttanesca Style

As a half-Belgian, I’m genetically predisposed to love mussels. I do not, however, love French fries – the usual accompaniment to mussels – so I decided to pair them with a different starch: whole wheat pasta. But instead of a heavy pasta dish scattered with mussels, this dish features mussels and a tangy tomato sauce, with whole wheat pasta added for fiber and a little bulk. Mussels are comparable in price to chicken, easy to prepare, and a tasty source of lean protein.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2-3 anchovy fillets
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
¼ – ½ cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives
2 T capers, drained
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, to taste
Chopped parsley, basil
Whole wheat linguine

Method

Prepare linguine according to packaged directions.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy fillets; saute until fillets appear to “melt.” Add can of San Marzano tomatoes, and allow to simmer for 4-6 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, salt, and half of each of the capers and olives. Turn up the heat and cover pot with lid. When sauce begins to boil, add mussels; cover with top again. Mussels should pop open in about three to five minutes. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve generously over pasta; garnish with parsley, basil, and salt, to taste.

Why should you eat this?
Mussels are an incredibly lean source of protein, offering muscle-building amino acids with a fraction of the fat or calories of red meat. Mussels, as well as other clams and oysters, are one of the best dietary sources of vitamin B12, providing 340% of the recommended daily value. Vitamin B12 supports the metabolism of macronutrients and facilitates the proper development of nerve cells and red blood cells. Mussels are also high in selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties, and iodine, which is necessary for thyroid function and metabolism.

The pairing of tomatoes with omega-3 fatty acids (from three sources: olive oil, mussels, and anchovies) makes this dish a potent fighter against oxidative stress. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a carotenoid that has been shown in studies to support cardiovascular health by lowering the risk of lipid peroxidation and to protect against some types of cancer. Even better, studies show that lycopene becomes four times more bioavailable when it is either heated or paired with healthy fats – both of which happen in this dish. Newer research has also shown that lycopene may reverse and protect against some of the DNA damage done by UV rays, so load up on fat-spiked tomatoes for added sun protection for your upcoming Spring Break trip!

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