Monday, 6 January 2014

Pasta Fasta

Federico Fellini once said,  "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." I agree wholeheartedly with him!

The magic for me is to be able to create a pasta dish that is fast to prepare, nutritious, tastes amazing but doesn't stack on the calories. I prefer to make fresh pasta because it tastes so much nicer, but using package pasta is a much faster option. 

Pasta has gotten a bad reputation because of its carbohydrate count. Many people on a weight reduction diet, tend to steer away from it altogether because of this. But following some simple rules you can still enjoy eating pasta on a regular basis. 

  • Avoid sauces using cream products as these will increase the calorie count. Tomato based sauces are fine. Adding a little white  or red wine will give a nice flavour too.
  • Try to restrict yourself to only 1 cup of cooked pasta at a time (unless you are planning to run a marathon)
  • Go easy on butter and cheese. Instead of having cheese based sauces, only add a little to the end dish, a teaspoon of Parmesan Cheese will only add around 20 calories.
  • Make sure you add a heap of vegetables to your dish, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach etc.
  • Add fresh herbs they make a huge difference to the taste
I have a fairly big herb garden, so I feel justified in throwing in as many fresh herbs as I can, whenever I can. Basil is a particular favourite but I use lots of oregano, marjoram and flat leaf parsley. 

For this dish I made my own pasta because I love fresh pasta and it is fun to make. You do not have to do this, you can use any pasta but I recommend using Penne, Spaghetti or Linguine. If you want to make your own I have included a how to at the end of the post. If you are crazily busy make the sauce the day before.

Keeping simplicity in mind, this recipe for Pasta with Spinach and Garlic will give you around 320 calories per serve and adding a green salad will give you less that 500 calories. Importantly it will also put a smile of contentment on your face while you are eating it. Mangare!

 Pasta with Spinach and Garlic Sauce

375 g Pasta, Penne or Linguine (or recipe below)
Large bunch of English Spinach, washed and chopped (around 380g) 
1 tbls Olive oil
Knob of butter (optional if you need to watch calories)
3 Cloves garlic crushed
4 tbls Parmesan cheese grated
Pinch salt and pepper
3 tbls Flat leaf parsley chopped
3 tbls Basil chopped
4 tbls Pine nuts toasted (dry frypan for approx 3 minutes until golden) 

In a large saucepan of water with salt added, cook pasta to al dente.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in frypan and add crushed garlic, cooking for a couple of minutes stirring constantly, add all of the spinach. You may need to do this slowly and as it starts to wilt add more. Cook until wilted adding basil and flat leaf parsley. Using a stick blender, pulse the spinach and garlic mixture.

When pasta is cooked, drain and put it back into the saucepan. Add Spinach mixture and mix thoroughly on a very low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and a knob of butter. Mix in the pine nuts and serve immediately with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Italians always mix the sauce into the pasta. Serves 4

Pasta Ingredients

2 cups Plain Flour
2 Eggs lightly beaten
1 tbls Olive oil
Pinch salt

Put the flour on your working area and make a well in the centre. Add 2 eggs, salt and oil and gradually work in the eggs, oil and flour together using finger tips. Keep working it until it forms a dough. On a floured board, knead for about 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic and rest for 30 minutes. I do not refrigerate. This is ready to use either in your pasta machine or to roll by hand. If you find it a little soft, gently knead in a little more flour. Serves 4 

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