Using Your Noodle
May 19th, 2012 - By Lari Robling
There are ways to enjoy pasta without the guilt. Chef and cookbook author Aliza Green has some simple tips for easy and healthier pasta preparation.
"You would go to the pasta store there weren't boxes they had cabinets with wooden drawers. And you would pull out the drawer and inside there was fusilli, linguini, spaghetti and that’s how you would buy your pasta." That’s chef and cookbook author Aliza Green recalling childhood memories of the summer she spent in Italy that fueled her lifelong love affair with pasta. Pasta is one of those foods with mixed nutrition reviews. Much of that has to do with portion control, a real serving size of cooked pasta is one cup, not that overflowing plate.
But, Green says there are some other things you can do to keep this dish on the healthier side. "If you go to Italy the pasta will be pretty firm and it will even have a tiny center core of hard uncooked pasta. The more you cook the faster they are going to break down into sugars which is what you are trying to avoid." It may be a fine line between raw and just right al dente but it only takes a few tries, "cut it down by a minute or two each time and eventually you get used to it and it is much more interesting in the mouth if the pasta has a lot of texture. We do tend to over dress our pasta especially with the rich stuff. The pasta is a good vehicle for vegetables that are cut up and then a little cheese on top at the end rather making a cheese sauce." Read the label, pasta should be made from 100% durum semolina wheat which has more protein than standard flour. And we know whole wheat pasta has fiber, but what about the taste? "Whole wheat pasta dried from the box a few years ago was pretty horrible. It was 'o.k., like I'm eating a bunch of cardboard here.' They are using some different wheats now the processes are different. So, I do use whole wheat pasta not for everything but for the dish we are going to make today it definitely goes well with whole wheat pasta because it has a nutty flavor."
Enough talk, let’s cook! Green begins with garlic onions and mushrooms and a modest amount of meat in a quick saute with a little olive oil. "For this I buy boneless skinless chicken thighs, which are reasonable in price and moist and juicy. I'm gong to use 3/4 of pound. This is going to make make four to six servings. Cook until opaque 3-4 minutes. If you have everything ready you can cook the sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Green uses the chopped tomatoes that come in box because they don't have citric acid added in processing, "definitely fresh cracked pepper right into the sauce." Green swiftly drains the pasta and adds it to the sauce for the final touch of chopped rosemary and parsley. In less than fifteen minutes, chicken cacciatore with whole wheat penne. You can smell parsley fresh bright look that's it we're done!
"Making Artisan Pasta" is Green’s new book on fresh pasta.