Sustainable Seafood Spaghetti

Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp

Featured Image: Chelsie Craig, Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp

Waking up to the sweet aroma of my mother’s cooking, I rush down stairs to witness what she is whipping up. As I walk down the stairs, she greets me with a bowl of spaghetti. My mom’s spaghetti was never consistent whenever she made it. She would often mix up the ingredients to create different variations of her delicious dish. Some days she made seafood spaghetti, while other days she would make a healthier spaghetti or even a meat lovers spaghetti. Although I had plenty of other dishes when I was young, spaghetti was and still is one of my favorite dishes to eat. One downside to spaghetti is how incredibly unsustainable it is. Of all the different variations my mom made, the least sustainable would be her seafood spaghetti.

The ingredients required to create my mom’s seafood spaghetti includes: extra-virgin olive oil, finely chopped onions, diced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, dry white wine, a can of diced tomatoes, salt, spaghetti, mussel, shrimp, unsalted butter, parsley, and lemon juice (Baraghani). Plenty of these ingredients are not sustainable to the environment. Many people believe that in order to be sustainable or environmentally friendly, they have to completely change their dish. However, most of the ingredients for this seafood spaghetti can be altered to create a more sustainable dish without changing the identity of the platter.

The carbon footprint that foods leave behind show the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the production of a particular dish. This helps people determine whether the dish is sustainable or not sustainable. By reducing or eliminating the ingredients that have high carbon footprints, we can help protect the environment and prevent global warming.

Meat and seafood have one of the highest carbon footprints. In the article, Food’s Carbon Footprint, the production of 1 kilogram of beef is equivalent to 27 kilograms of carbon dioxide or 63 miles of driving. My mom’s dish is meatless, but it does contain seafood like mussels and shrimps. Mussel emits one of the least amount of carbon dioxide. The Food Climate Research Network, or the FCRN, proves that mussels only produce 0.324 kilograms of carbon dioxide for half a kilogram (Carbon). Compared to beef, mussels produce nearly 42 times less carbon dioxide for every kilogram, making it the most sustainable ingredient in this dish. Shrimp, on the other hand, produces the most carbon dioxide; it produces nearly 7.6 tons of carbon dioxide (George). According to Tom Philpott, the carbon footprint of shrimp is nearly 10 times the carbon footprint of beef. By completely eliminating shrimp in the seafood spaghetti, the amount of carbon dioxide is reduced significantly.

All of the vegetables in the seafood spaghetti do not have to be eliminated or replaced with other ingredients. The technique used to obtain and use them in the recipe, however, can definitely be changed to make the dish more sustainable. The vegetables like onions, tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, and parsley can all be grown instead of purchased at the market. Wendell Berry believes, “A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.” Jane Richards also supports the idea that growing your own food is not just healthy for you, but it is healthy for the environment. Pre-cut vegetables require industrial processes to cut and package them into containers for the consumer to buy. Not to mention. they need to be washed with bleach. People are able to cut and clean their own vegetables when they grow them. Tomato paste also requires a large amount of energy to create and emits a huge quantity of carbon dioxide. Tomato paste can be completely removed because it does not add a benefit to the dish. This makes the dish healthier to the consumer and healthier for the environment.

An ingredient that can be replaced is the spaghetti noodles itself. The process that goes into making spaghetti noodles consumes a lot of carbon dioxide; it requires mixing, cutting, and packaging. The amount of technology that is required to create spaghetti noodles is immense. One way to replace the spaghetti noodles is by replacing it with zucchini noodles. Zucchinis are easy to grow and do not require any processing. People just have to shred the zucchini into a noodle shape, and it would easily replace spaghetti noodles. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted will significantly decrease with this change.

By altering and eliminating these ingredients, the dish will become more sustainable by obtaining a balance between environment, economy, and social equity. People will be able to save money if they eliminate shrimp from their dish and grow their own ingredients. As mentioned before, the carbon footprint of each of these ingredients will significantly decrease with these revisions. The environmental issues like global warming will be improved with decreases in carbon emissions. The public health of people is also increased due to less pollution in the air. People will be able to live a healthier and more profitable life by trying these alterations to the seafood spaghetti recipe.

Original Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

Original Directions

  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium.
  3. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden and softened, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color and starts sticking to bottom of pan, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add wine and cook, stirring often, until the smell of the alcohol is almost completely gone, about 4 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and juices, crushing with your hands, and increase heat to medium-high.
  8. Cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens slightly, 8–10 minutes. Taste and season sauce with salt.
  9. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  10. Add mussels, shrimp, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce.
  11. Cover and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until mussels open, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, pick out shrimp and mussels and transfer to a large bowl, discarding any mussels that have not opened. Loosely cover with foil to keep warm.
  12. Add pasta and another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat.
  13. Reduce heat to medium, add butter, and continue to cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 4 minutes.
  14. Remove from heat, return shrimp and mussels to pot, and carefully toss to combine.
  15. Mix in parsley and lemon juice.
  16. Transfer pasta to a platter and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Tomato-Basil Steamed Mussels with Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Although the dish does have some slight differences that makes it seem completely different, the dish is still a pasta that contains most of the original ingredients.

Revised Ingredients

The pesto

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The Mussels

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper

The Noodles

  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt and pepper

Revised Directions

  1. Gather ingredients
  2. To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic cloves, and pine nuts in a food processor, and pulse until fine.
  3. Add ½ cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and mix in the Parmesan. Note: if using all pesto immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. If freezing any of it; transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. Keep the mussels refrigerated until ready to use. Once ready, if the mussels have not been scrubbed or debearded, place them in a large bowl of ice cold water.
  6. Scrub the outsides of the mussels and remove the string by using a paper towel to pull it out.
  7. Discard any mussels that have already opened.
  8. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  9. Add the garlic and medium onion and cook until lightly golden.
  10. Add the white wine and chopped tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
  11. Once boiled, add the mussels and stir for about a minute.
  12. Then cover the skillet and cook until all the mussels have opened, about 5-6 minutes.
  13. Garnish with the chopped basil and salt and pepper, and stir the mussels well so the broth makes it into the shells.
  14. While the mussels are cooking, cut lengthwise slices from zucchini using a vegetable peeler (or spiralizer or mandolin), stopping when the seeds are reached.
  15. Turn zucchini over and continue peeling until all the zucchini is in long strips; discard seeds. If desired, slice the zucchini into thinner strips to resemble linguine.
  16. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  17. Stir the zucchini noodles in the oil for about a minute, then add the water and a dash of salt and cook until zucchini is softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  18. Toss the noodles with the pesto, and stir in the tomatoes.
  19. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the steamed mussels, adding a little of the broth from the skillet to the dish.
  20. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
  21. Serve immediately.

Works Cited

Baraghani, Andy. “Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp.” Bon Appetit, Bon Appétit, 7 Dec. 2017,

Berry, Wendell. A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. Counterpoint, 2012.

“Carbon Footprint of Scottish Mussels and Oysters.” Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) | Knowledge for Better Food Systems,

“Garlic Zucchini Noodles.” Kirbie’s Cravings, Kirbie’s Cravings, 6 Mar. 2018,

George, Russ. “Seafoods Carbon Footprint.” Russ George, 27 July 2014,

“Pexels.” Free Stock Photos,

Philpott, Tom. “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint Is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s.” Mother Jones, Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress, 25 June 2017,

Richards, Jane. “Food’s Carbon Footprint.” Green Eatz,

Thomas, Michelle Embleton. “Tomato-Basil Steamed Mussels with Pesto Zucchini Noodles.” The Secret Ingredient Is, 4 Feb. 2015,

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