Twirl Freely (carbohydrates are not the devil)
Pasta has always been one of my most loved foods. I find it dreamy and delicious, and at the same time nourishing and comforting. My all-time favourite meal would be ultra al dente linguini or spaghetti, with fresh mussels, clams and maybe some prawns cooked in olive oil, white wine and some garlic, and finished off with fresh parsley. On my most recent trip to Italy, I delighted in this dish whenever I got the chance. So simple, so fresh – practically perfect in every way. I know that I am not alone in my linguini love. Many of you are passionate about paparadelle and squeal for spaghetti. Please, sir, may I have some more penne? Yet while fusilli fills many a belly with joy, it seems that lots of people engage in a love-hate relationship with pasta. Twirling delectable strands with a fork evokes feelings of both happiness and guilt.
Pasta gets such a bad wrap these days, what with carbohydrates being the root of all evil… It is so silly, really. It is unseemingly common for people to banish carbohydrates from their diet, in the hope of losing weight. This is quite troubling, in more ways than one.
Firstly, cutting out any food group is not advisable. You miss out on important nutrients and this restrictive behaviour encourages cravings and binge eating.
Secondly, the key to a health and happiness is eating intuitively. No gimmicks, no magic pill, no quick fix, just listening to your body and treating it with kindness and acceptance. And certainly no extreme, ridiculous diets whereby you eliminate entire food groups, develop foul breath and horrible mood swings, and then end up putting on all the weight you lost and then some.
Carbohydrates are not the devil.
Pasta is not ‘fattening’.
And eating a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise will not make you put on 5kg.
Rather, I find a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise to be incredibly delicious and ultra satisfying. Paired with a simple tomato based sauce, pasta can be a really easy, quick and nutritious weeknight meal.
Below is a recipe for my Tomato and Tuna Pasta, which I whip up very quickly when a craving strikes. It is also delicious sans tuna. If I’m really lucky I will have some fresh basil on hand, which adds a beautiful fragrance and flavour – I am a fresh basil addict, I just adore it. If my vegetable intake has been a little low that day, I may add in some spinach leaves or peas, to green the dish up a little. However most of the time I stick to the recipe below.
If I want to mix things up further, I will swap the brown onion for red onion, cut into longer, thicker slices, which I sauté in some olive oil along with a good glug of balsamic vinegar. It gives the sauce a lovely depth of flavour and tang. I leave out the tuna and instead focus on letting the sauce simmer away, developing a rich tomato flavour. Roasted eggplant and red capsicum are lovely additions to this balsamic-infused sauce, as is a little rosemary.
Tomato and Tuna Pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion
3 cloves of garlic (I love my garlic, add more or less as you wish)
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes (I use laGina tinned tomatoes - you could substitue with freshly diced tomatoes too)
1 x 700g bottle passata – TIP: I swear by Bertolli Provvista Sugo Classica. It is divine - rich and fresh. The quality of the passata you use completely makes or breaks this dish. Yes, this brand is more expensive, but I see it as a very worthy investment)
1 x 425g tin Sirena Tuna in Oil (I only use Sirena tuna, for the same reason as I mentioned with the passata)
A handful of Fresh Basil Leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Good quality Parmesan
Your favourite pasta - normally I prefer spaghettoni or a similar, equally fun pasta – I love to twirl my pasta. However with this dish, I enjoy tortiglioni or rigatoni. Tubes are such fun.
note: this sauce makes enough for at least 5-6 serves, however I always make this quantity so that Ben has leftovers for work lunches.
Dice the onion. In a heavy-based saucepan heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until soft and coloured slightly. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook until fragrant. Add in the tuna (drain off most of the oil however leave a little), diced tomatoes, passata, wine and fresh basil, season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, and let the sauce simmer for as long as possible (I always end up simmering for ~30mins). Cook your pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions, until al dente. Serve the pasta into bowls. Top with sauce, and freshly grated parmesan.