Pasta is a Pillar of the Mediterranean Diet
December 2015
Welcome to the new issue of The Truth About Pasta, the monthly newsletter from the International Pasta Organization. Each month's newsletter features a new and different topic -- all pointing to The Truth About Pasta. The truth is......pasta is healthy, sustainable, convenient, delicious, affordable, doesn't make you fat, and much, much more. Be sure to look for each new issue, with more topics and information.
The much-loved Mediterranean diet is characterized by a rich variety of seasonal plant foods and regional specialties, but at the foundation of this cuisine are dependable, shelf stable grain foods, like pasta. Highlighting the importance of this traditional dietary pattern, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes the Mediterranean Diet as an element of intangible cultural heritage.
Health experts affirm the role of pasta in nutritious, Mediterranean-inspired eating patterns.

Experts Say...

Across the world, pasta is recognized as a pillar of Mediterranean meals. According to Dr. Michel De Lorgeril, of University Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France, "Pasta is the queen of the Italian Mediterranean cuisine." This is particularly important for health, as he explains that, "Medically the Mediterranean Diet is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, inflammatory disease and to increase longevity based on the best scientific evidence."

 Click here to see his video interview from World Pasta Day 2015.

Researchers are also uncovering a link between Mediterranean foods (especially carbohydrates, like pasta) and healthy aging. Dr. Giancarlo Logroscino, of the University of Bari in Italy, explains that "Carbohydrates for the brain are like gas for a car." This means that "When we follow the Mediterranean Diet, including healthy pasta, mostly vegetables, and olive oil as the main fat source, the risk of getting Alzheimer 's disease is lowered." 

 Click here to see his video interview from World Pasta Day 2015. 
Moms Say...

According to Suzy Karadsheh, a mother of two and founder of the recipe blog, The Mediterranean Dish, "a Mediterranean dish simply as a well-balanced dish. There are grains, vegetables and either lean meat or fish; and hopefully, a glass of wine.  A Mediterranean dish is colorful; cooked with in-season ingredients; sometimes indulgent, but mostly healthy."

For this reason, pasta is the perfect canvas to introduce Karadsheh's two children to the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean. "Pasta's ability to 'play well' with other ingredients is what makes it a popular dinner at my house," explains Karadsheh.  "I love to add as many ingredients as I can to my pasta by whipping up something like a Minestrone soup that's loaded with chickpeas, green beans, and diced tomatoes." As a busy mom, Karadsheh also enjoys  "simple and quick" pasta meals, like this chicken and spaghetti dish, tossed with garlic-wine sauce, tomatoes and basil.

Continuing the Tradition

The Mediterranean diet is often romanticized for its links to generations past. However, by carrying forward these food traditions, we can help promote a healthier future for our children and grandchildren. Research supports this notion.  After analyzing the diets of high school students, for a study called "Quality of dietary habits (adherence to a Mediterranean diet) in pupils of compulsory secondary education," Spanish researchers A.A. Diaz and T.D. Trave recommended that students should "increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, nuts, pasta and rice, yogurt and cheese, pulses and fish."

Similarly, while pills and supplements may seem like a modern way to be nutritious, particularly for athletes, the simple, balanced pasta meals of our ancestors were actually on the right track. Dr. Michelangelo Giampietro, a sports nutrition expert with Sapienza University of Rome, explains that " Pasta is a great source of complex carbohydrates and is highly recommended for athletes." In fact, "With the Mediterranean Diet, athletes have no need for supplements," he said.

Video of the Month 

Pasta is Good for Your Health

Pasta is Good for Your Health 

Video courtesy of AIDEPI  

Recipe of the Month

Prawn Linguine
Sweet prawns, rich tomatoes, lemony rocket and a kick of chilli - this is definitely comfort food.

12 large raw shell-on king prawns from a sustainable source
1 good pinch of saffron
Olive oil
1 onion
4 anchovy fillets
1 splash of Riesling , crisp & dry
1 x 400 g tin (1 14-oz can) of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
200 g (about 7 oz) ripe cherry tomatoes
2 fresh long red chilies
½ bulb of fennel
½ x Royal pasta dough, or 320g (about 12 oz) dried linguine
1 large handful of rocket (arugula)
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Peel the prawns, reserving all the heads and shells. Run a knife down the back and pull out the veins. Keep 4 prawns whole, running your knife down those ones again to butterfly them. Chop the rest of the prawns into small chunks to help distribute that sweet taste throughout the dish.

Put the saffron into a little bowl with a thimble of boiling water. Place the prawn heads and shells in a large pan on a medium heat with a lug of olive oil and fry while you peel and finely chop the onion, then add it to the pan. Cook until the onion starts to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the saffron with its soaking water and the anchovies. Turn the heat up, add the wine and cook it away, then add the tinned tomatoes, 1 tin's worth of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, the simmer for 12 minutes. Cool a little, and in small batches, blitz in a blender until smooth, then pass through a coarse sieve and season to taste.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Peel and finely slice the garlic, quarter the cherry tomatoes and finely slice the chili. Trim and finely slice the fennel, preferably on a mandolin (use the guard!). You can make this with the fresh or dried pasta, so if using fresh cut the sheets into linguine.

Now it's time to focus. Great pasta is all about timing and confidence - the sauce takes 4 minutes, so if using dried pasta, get that on first and start the sauce after 8 minutes; if using the fresh, cook it halfway through the sauce process - I don't want you to overcook the prawns or pasta. Place a large pan on a high heat and, once hot, add a good lug of olive oil, quickly followed by the garlic and chili. After 30 seconds, toss in the whole prawns, then after another 6 seconds add the chopped prawns, cherry tomatoes and fennel and toss again. Pour over the sauce and bring to a simmer.

At this point, drain your cooked pasta and place it on top of the sauce. Toss again, quickly check the seasoning and divide between four bowls, followed by any leftover prawns and sauce Top each portion with a clump of rocket, add a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Eat it, and be proud of yourself.

Yield: 4 servings.
Nutrition Information
Calories 500, Fat 21g, Saturated Fat 4g, Sodium 470mg, Carbohydrates 52g, Fiber 13g, Protein 24g

Recipe and photo courtesy of Jamie Oliver.

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