Pasta with Kale & Zucchini

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After a few rounds of trial and error, we’ve found our perfect pre-race (or pre-long run) dinner. As in, the night before. We both run well on pasta, there’s no question about that. Potatoes do work too, but pasta… it just feels right. Nothing gives you that extra pep in your step as a big bowl of spaghetti, right? The toppings and sauces have come in many different shapes over the years, but we dare say this is our winner. There are some beans in there, making it a balanced meal, but no heaping amounts – because in all truth and honesty, you don’t want to give your stomach too much to work with when you hit the trails. Balance is key, as we all know! Even for those with zero intentions to lace up your shoes and go running, this meal is, frankly, quite nice. And you know what? We even got the green light from our stepdad/step-father in law when serving him this, despite the fact that he’s… not really a vegetable lover (let’s just leave it at that). That should say a lot.

Even though it might seem tempting to skip the blanching step and hop right to sautéing – don’t. Blanching the kale removes all traces of bitterness, and while that can be a nice flavor addition to other meals, it just doesn’t belong here. You can substitute green kale if dino isn’t available, obviously, and if so – the blanching procedure is the same. That should be about it – now, let’s eat!

Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti
1 1/2 lbs dino kale
2 lbs zucchini, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 – 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste

Wash and de-stem the kale. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, blanch kale leaves quickly, approx. 1 min. Then drain, let cool, and using your hands, squeeze out any excess water. Roughly chop the kale, and then loosen up the clumps of compacted kale. Set aside. Start the water for the pasta. Sauté onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil in a big pan over medium heat, about 5 min. Add garlic and continue sautéing for another min, before stirring in the zucchini cubes and 1 tsp of salt. Continue cooking for roughly 15 min. The pasta water should be boiling around now, so add pasta and cook according to directions. When pasta is cooking, add the kale to the pan with the zucchini, and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and add about 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes (this depends on your preferred level of spiciness). Drain and rinse the beans, and add to the pan and cook until heated through. Season with black pepper and salt. Taste to make sure all flavors are balanced. Drain pasta, add a splash of olive oil, give it a sprinkle of salt and stir together. Serve with a generous scoop of the kale zucchini mixture.

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