Saturday, March 15, 2008


Carlo and Lisa Middione at VIVANDE

Travel in Italy and you won’t see as much obesity as in the United States.
Yet, the Italians eat 65 lbs. of pasta per capita per year, as opposed to 20 lbs. per capita per year eaten by Americans. How do the Italians manage to stay so slender ?

In Italy by law dried commercial pastas are made ONLY from pure durum
wheat and water, with NO artificial colorings or preservatives. Commer-
cial egg pastas must, by law, contain at least 5 whole fresh eggs for every 2 pounds of durum flour. Such complex carbohydrates, especially if unrefined, give muscle tissue plenty of food to grow on and little fat to worry about.

Hard durum winter wheat, the flour and semolina ground from it, is rich in gluten, stronger and superior to ordinary flours for making pasta.

In America while some commercial water based pastas use only durum flour, others may be made with the addition of ordinary white processed flour, enriched with fortified vitamins. Powdered dehydrated vegetables are used in colored pastas, or just vegetable based dyes. Commercial egg pasta is generally made with frozen eggs or egg solids.

In Italy, handmade or partially handmade fresh pasta from only durum flour with whole egg to tenderize the dough, is still widely used. Some believe it is the only true pasta experience.

In America, some makers add ordinary white flour to fresh pasta to soften the durum so it can more easily be worked by hand or by smaller machines.

Pasta in Italy is never overcooked. Pasta chewed “al dente” releases its energy gradually by breaking down the starches over a period of time.

Pasta in America is often cooked too long, turning the starch more quickly to a simple sugar. This can even give a “rush”, then make you feel hungry sooner to eat more often.

In Italy the pasta is central to the “sauce” which is often not a “sauce” at all, but a favorite vegetable-in-season or shellfish sauteed with a little extra virgin olive oil, a splash of the water in which the pasta was cooked, maybe a drop of wine, and always fresh herbs.

In America pasta dishes generally take their name from the sauce, which is often too rich and over-powering. Such sauces drown out the pasta which takes second place in the dish.

No wonder nutritionists have detected literally hundreds of calories difference between the way the same pasta recipe is eaten in Italy and America ! No wonder the Italians who eat pasta are lean, whereas alot of American pasta eaters are fat !

So, what are you waiting for ? You, too, can eat pasta the way the Italians do, and enjoy it fully without worrying about gaining weight !


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