09 August 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Summer Sizzle

SARONNO,  Italy - Mediterranean summers can sizzle and according to Italian dieticians, our bodies need a different balance of foods than the ones we consume during the cooler months. The latest Italian magazines are full of articles on how important it is to eat healthy and well, to use seasonal produce, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. To prove their point they publish page after page of slim and sleek Italian beauties romping on the beaches along the Italian Riviera or sunning themselves poolside at posh Sardinian resorts. 
 Posh Sardinian Resort
You are what you eat write the experts. The condition of your skin, your hair and your overall appearance depends on your diet, and for that reason Italians are always super aware of what they eat and drink. Foods rich in potassium  (tomatoes, beans, lentils) and magnesium (fish, spinach, broccoli) are particularly important in the Italian diet because those minerals help our bodies to recover water and salts lost during sun exposure. Here are some other hot weather tips they suggest to keep you beautiful and healthy under the summer sun.

1. Don’t skip meals. It’s better to eat three meals a day plus two snacks. Lunch time in Italy is 1PM, dinner time is 7 PM. Snack time is 11AM and 5PM.  Children in particular need to eat more often during the summer to maintain their energy and nutritional levels. Ice cream is OK in the afternoon, but a slice of pizza or focaccia is preferred for the morning snack.
2. Eat less to avoid overloading your digestive system - and gaining weight.
3. Eat what is in season. Choose fresh summer fruits and vegetables, avoid highly spiced foods and processed foods. Grilled lean meat and fish are good choices.
4. Ice cream is good for you, as is yogurt and cheese. All in moderation of course.
5. Avoid sugary carbonated drinks, they are especially bad for children.  Adults should avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. 

So what’s good? I like pasta salads. Pasta is the most wonderful food, it’s like a blank canvas, happy to take on whatever you want to add to it. The only ingredients that don’t work are vinegar and lemon juice, pasta salads do not require either one of them, in fact the acidity works against the flavors. It’s best to just use good quality extra virgin olive oil and if you want, some fresh basil or finely chopped rosemary.
A Little of This, A Little of That
Serves 4
150 grams carrots
120 grams of Swiss (Emmental) cheese
1 slice of mortadella or boiled ham
400 grams of fusilli pasta
200 grams peas (fresh or frozen)
450 grams zucchini
180 grams cherry tomatoes (Perini preferred)
2/3 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt (Q.B.*)
Extra virgin olive oil (Q.B.)
Fresh ground pepper (Q.B.)

Finely chop the parley and set aside (1). Wash and chop the tomatoes (2), wash and peel the carrots and cut them on the diagonal as shown in the photo (3). Set aside the tomatoes and carrots.
Wash and trim the zucchini, cut into strips and then cube (4). At this point blanch the vegetables, fill a pot of water, add salt and bring to a boil. Put the carrots in the boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes, scoop out with a strainer and put into a dish and set aside (5). Using the same water, do the same with the zucchini letting them cook for 5 or 6 minutes before scooping them out, draining them and setting them aside (6).

Then blanch the peas, but only for 2 minutes. Then drain them and set them aside (7). Be careful not to over salt the water you are blanching the vegetables in. Cut the mortadella or ham and cheese into chucks and set aside (8-9). 

At this point cook the fusilli pasta al dente. When they are cooked, scoop out a half a cup or so of the cooking water and set that aside. Drain the pasta and then either run it under cold water or put it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drizzle a very small amount of oil over the cooked pasta to keep it from sticking, (10) and set aside until it is cold. Put the tomatoes, (11) and the cheese and mortadella (12) into a large bowl.   
Add the parsley (13), the zucchini (14) and the peas (15),

then the carrots (16). Then add the pasta (17) mix it all together and add the olive oil, salt and pepper. If your pasta salad seems a little dry you can add a spoonful or two of the cooking water you set aside earlier to the mix. 

*Q.B. Quanto Basta – to taste.

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