Pasta: Reflections from Italy

August 7, 2015

I don’t completely avoid any food/food group, but pasta and wheat products in general aren’t things I tend to eat in large quantities. I was curious to see how Italians ate pasta, and my recent visit provided a lot of insight.

In the US some diets condemn pasta like they would trans fats or soda. The mantras of “the gluten will destroy you,” and “too many carbs will make you fat and give you diabetes” have permeated many of our belief systems.

Observe Italians, and it’s clear that pasta does not make (at least some) people obese.  I saw many slender people order, and finish a plate of pasta. . . with wine, cheese, and bread! “When in Rome”…

I had pasta with at least 1 meal/day

I had bread with most meals

I had my share of pizza

…and gelato, cheese, olives and olive oil

And wine!

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At the end of my 8-night stay, I felt great! Digestion was in tact, immune system strong, and my pants fit me great when I got home (I do not weigh myself).

I’m not certain which were the beneficial variables, but I saw several major differences in Italy than the US.

The restaurants got their bread from the same places everybody bought their bread, which was coming from a local baker. The bread is more airy, less dense and chewy, and is cut into small pieces when served. Word has it that Monsanto hasn’t gotten its hands on European wheat, which makes me trust it that much more.

Pasta servings were generous, but not huge.

Fresh ingredients were everywhere – like tomatoes and basil growing in a gas station parking lot!

Cheese was often of the fresh mozzarella variety, which falls on the easier-to-digest end of the cheese spectrum.

Olives and olive oil were grown and processed locally. Perhaps my favorite things I had there.

I walked much more than I do in my normal life. On average 20,000 steps/day according to Jason’s fitness tracker.

Dinners were long and relaxed, and I never left feeling uncomfortable.

The act of being on vacation helps to lower stress hormones, and I agree with patients’ reports of food being better tolerated than in “normal life.”

Upon returning home we tried to recreate some of our favorite noshes. On my first bite of bread, my heart sunk. I could tell immediately that our bread was more chewy, dense, and therefore harder to digest.

For a while, I have had a healthy go-to easy pasta meal, and since Italy I’ve been having it much more frequently. You can make it gluten free/dairy free/vegetarian if those are your things.

Easy, easy, easy. What you’ll need:

*A LOT of leafy greens; they are the main ingredient. Spinach is my favorite here, but chard or beet greens work great too. Frozen works too. You need a lot, though. 4 cups+ per person/serving as the greens shrink considerably when cooked.  At least 1 whole bag of spinach per person if that is how you buy it.  Remember, cooked vegetables are good!  Rinse off dirt.

*~1/2 – 1 cup cooked pasta. My personal recommendations are organic durum wheat semolina, or something like this brown rice and quinoa pasta that we get from Trader Joes.

*Your favorite tomato sauce. Mine is Rao’s marinara. It’s pricey, but I wait until it’s on sale and buy by the case.

Heat all in a saucepan covered with a lid until the greens have wilted. Stir.

I usually include grilled or baked chicken or meatballs (made from this meatloaf recipe) and some Parmesan cheese. You can prep and eat or prep and take to work for an easy to reheat lunch.

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Buon appetito!

You are what you eat.

In good health,



One Response to “Pasta: Reflections from Italy”

  1. usatcopydesk Says:

    Perfecto! Love the pasta ideas.

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