Marcy Carriker Smothers
Cafe Kuleto Harry Balzar Michael Pollan Pasta

Pasta Guilt?

They say French women, despite all the butter, don’t get fat because they eat small portions. What about the Italian women and all that pasta? My friend Sonia from Napoli is as beautiful and lithe as Sophia Loren. Is it some freakish Mount Vesuvius metabolism? Is it the garlic?
Last night, after a big bowl of pasta, I was looking to assuage my guilt and emailed my amica. Her response stunned me, “Marcy, I never eat bread, and pasta only once a week.”
Somehow I thought she was impervious to the carbs that are my thighs sworn enemy, but no, she’s human like the rest of us. Pasta is a treat for her just like it is for me.
I try to live the typical European lifestyle as much as I can. I go the market every day. I eat in season. As often as I can, I shop at the Farmer’s Market to get both local and organic produce. I order my meat, chicken and fish from the butcher and rarely buy any protein wrapped in cellophane. This doesn’t make me special or mean that I have more time than the average bear; it means that I am committed. I apply the same discipline to my exercise regimen that I do to my nutrition.
Michael Pollan wrote a fascinating article in the New York Times last month about the damage that Americans are doing to their health with their typical diets of industrially prepared meals. He asked food-marketing researcher Harry Balzer what we can do to undo the damage:
“Easy. You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short and it’s simple…cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want – just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”
Thank goodness I love to cook. It makes all of this so much easier. If you are reading my blog I assume you love to cook, too.
I used to go out to lunch nearly everyday, but since reading Mr. Balzar’s advice, I have been making my lunch daily. I’ve already noticed a difference in my weight and attitude.
Which brings me back to my pasta, I made it myself at home, so it’s all good. Right?

Guilt-Free Pasta?

  1. One box (sixteen ounces) penne pasta
  2. Fourteen ounces fresh spinach
  3. One pint toy box tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  4. Three garlic cloves
  5. Olive oil
  6. Three spicy lamb sausages
  7. One cup (or more) fresh ricotta
  • While the water is boiling for the pasta, put a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and heat. Cook the sausages until they are brown on all sides. Add enough water to the pan to cover half of the sausages. When the water cooks away the sausages should be done.
  • Drain on paper towels and loosely chop.
  • Halve the tomatoes and mince the garlic.
  • Put the pasta in the salted and boiling water.
  • Working quickly, saute the garlic and tomatoes in olive oil. At the very last add the spinach to melt.
  • As soon as the pasta is done cooking, drain, and toss with the garlic, tomatoes and spinach. Add olive oil as needed. Fold in the sausage and the ricotta. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves two to three.

This recipe is inspired from a dish I had at Cafe Kuleto in San Francisco years ago. The heat from the spicy sausage is tempered with the creamy and cool texture of the ricotta.

Michael Pollan’s New York times article Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch:

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