October 28, 2016
Vol. VIII No. 22
Photo: istock.com
Happy (Belated) World Pasta Day!
This past Tuesday, October 25th was World Pasta Day, a day to celebrate an international favorite food and a staple of the Mediterranean diet. The day was first established in 1995 at the World Pasta Congress to highlight pasta as a global food that tastes great, stores well, and is affordable and simple to cook. This year, the main event took place in Moscow, Russia and Oldways was proud to participate.
Why Moscow? Given that pasta is not a Russian food, you might wonder why World Pasta Day was held there. Russia is the third largest producer of wheat, behind China and India, and it is fifth in the world in terms of pasta production (behind Italy, the U.S., Turkey, and Brazil). Pasta is an important part of a healthy diet there. We enjoyed several innovative and incredibly delicious pasta dishes on our trip, and one of our favorites was black and white spaghetti with sea urchin (pictured left) by Chef Vladimir Mukhin (pictured below). Delicious!
Pasta was created as a way to preserve grains by combining dried and ground grains with water, forming the mixture into edible shapes, and drying them for storage. This simple yet profound method of preservation is used to make noodles around the world. 

Pasta is traditionally made with durum wheat, an ancient Mediterranean strain of wheat that is ground into semolina flour. Semolina describes a course grind, available in refined or whole wheat form. Durum semolina is also used to make trahana in Greece and couscous on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Although a fear of carbohydrates still lingers in discussions about pasta, carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced, healthy diet, along with protein and fats. Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, however. Luckily for our health and our taste buds, pasta is a low-glycemic food, meaning our bodies digest it slowly for long-lasting energy. Unlike high-glycemic foods such as white bread, pasta does not cause an unsustainable spike in glucose levels. Pasta also provides plant proteins and B vitamins, and whole wheat pasta is an excellent source of fiber.

Top Chefs Davide Scabin and Vladimir Muhkin in Moscow.
Portion size and pairings are other important things to consider when evaluating the benefits of pasta. In the Mediterranean, pasta is usually served in smaller portions compared to how it is served in other countries, particularly in the U.S., and along with plenty of seasonal vegetables, olive oil, fish, legumes, and other healthy foods. In fact, researchers have found that people who eat more pasta tend to get more servings of vegetables in their diets.  Pasta e fagoli , a soup made from vegetables, beans and pasta is an excellent example of a complete, healthy meal. 

For information about pasta and health, look no further than the  2015 Consensus Statement on the Healthy Pasta Meal. The 2015 Consensus Statement is an update of previous statements, and is signed by scientists from nine countries. At this year's World Pasta Congress, Russian representatives added their names. Oldways also has a number of other educational resources about healthy pasta meals:
With over 50 pasta shapes and endless options for flavors, making pasta is fun and never gets old. We add new pasta recipes to our collection every year, and we hope you continue to be inspired.

Check out our newest pasta recipes below.  Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.

Turn your pasta pink! The bold color of this pasta dish comes from a red wine reduction sauce. Roasted butternut squash and asparagus add heartiness and earthy flavors for a complete pasta meal, perfect for colder months.

Recipe courtesy of Barilla. Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Boni for Barilla.

Some store-bought Mediterranean dips have multiple uses, and one is in pasta sauce. This recipe uses a feta-based dip that adds creaminess to an otherwise simple tomato sauce. Use pasta shapes that hold thicker sauce well, such as penne or rotini. 
Recipe and photo courtesy of Grecian Delight

Mollica  means crumb in Italian, and  pasta alla mollica
is yet another example in Mediterranean cooking of turning something you might throw out (stale bread) into something spectacular. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Mediterra

Only a few days left of  VegtoberfestLearn more by clicking the image below:

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.