October 16, 2015
Vol. VII No. 21
In This Issue
Happy World Pasta Day!

October 25th is World Pasta Day! The day was first established in 1995 at the World Pasta Congress to highlight pasta as a global food. This year, the main event will take place in Milan, Italy, but we encourage you to celebrate with a delicious plate of pasta wherever you are. Pasta is an international favorite for good reason. It tastes great, stores well, and it's affordable and simple to cook. It is also a staple of the Mediterranean diet. 

Classic Italian pasta dishes like cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) and spaghetti alla pesto Genovese have lovely light sauces and are typically served as first courses, whereas lasagna alla Norma (with eggplant) and tagliatelle Bolognese (meat sauce) can easily satisfy for an entire meal. Small pasta shapes are traditionally added to broth and bean soups to add more body. Pasta can even be added to egg frittatas for breakfast.

Pasta is not just an Italian staple. It was created as a way to preserve grains by combining dried and ground grains with water, forming the mixture into edible shapes, and drying them for storage. This simple yet profound method of storing heart-healthy grains is used to make noodles around the world. Pasta is traditionally made with durum wheat, an ancient Mediterranean strain of wheat that is ground into semolina flour. Durum semolina is also used to make trahana in Greece and couscous on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Some fad diets vilify pasta because it contains carbohydrates and use it as a scapegoat for weight gain. Carbohydrates, along with protein and fats, are an essential part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, not all carbohydrate foods are created equal. Pasta is a low-glycemic food, meaning our bodies digest it slowly for long-lasting energy. Unlike high-glycemic foods such as white bread, pasta does not cause an unsustainable spike in glucose levels. Pasta also provides vegetable proteins and B vitamins - even more when it's whole grain - and contains little sodium and no cholesterol. 

Did you know that if we mix durum wheat with water and extrude it through dies we get spaghetti, with a glycemic index of 42-45 when cooked, but if we take the same ingredients and bake them into leavened dough we get bread, with a glycemic index of 70-80 or more? (Low-glycemic foods have a glycemic index of 55 or less). Pasta is a wonderful illustration of human ingenuity.

If you need ideas for how pasta can be incorporated into a healthy diet, just look to its birthplace around the Mediterranean. It is served in smaller portions there compared to how it is served in other countries, particularly in the U.S., and it is a chance to eat more vegetables, olive oil, fish, legumes, and other healthy foods. In fact, researchers have found that people who eat more pasta tend to get more servings of vegetables in their diets. Minestrone, a soup made from vegetables, beans and pasta is an excellent example of a complete, healthy meal. Read the recipes below for more healthy ideas for your pasta plate.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe. 
Sun Dried Tomato Penne

Some of the most satisfying pasta dishes are unbelievably simple. In this recipe, the vegetables steam and cheese melts from the heat of freshly cooked pasta, with no need for an extra sauce pot on the stove. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bella Sun Luci

Whole Grain Spaghetti

Eating pasta is not only a great way to get more vegetables in your diet, but also a way to add whole grains. In this recipe, whole grain spaghetti stands up to the bright flavors of pesto, marinated chicken breast, and cherry tomatoes.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Barilla.

Pasta Primavera

Pasta primavera is bursting with colorful vegetables, all coated in a wonderfully rich, creamy sauce. Although it is traditionally made with spring vegetables, this is a great recipe to turn to if you are short on time and have any kind of vegetables to use up. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of International Collection Oils.

Yellow Split Pea Pasta

Blended yellow split peas and yogurt provide a comforting, creamy texture to this pasta dish. Try using whole grain pasta or pulse pasta, pasta made with lentils, peas, beans or chickpeas. Pulse pasta is quick cooking, and high in protein and fiber.

Recipe and photo courtesy of American Pulse Association

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.




Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter  

Find us on Pinterest   

Your input matters for the future of cheese
The Four Seasons of Pasta
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins
This mother-daughter duo have lived, cooked, studied, and worked in Rome, Florence, and on a Tuscan olive farm, and they draw from this experience in The Four Seasons of Pasta. The recipes use seasonal ingredients from supermarkets and farmstands across America.

Pasta Harvest
by Janet Fletcher
Pasta Harvest honors one of the food world's happiest marriages. Italians have long appreciated the natural affinity of pasta and vegetables, and food writer Janet Fletcher builds on Italian tradition with creative ideas that seem right at home in contemporary kitchens.

The Pasta Book
by Julia Della Croce
Julia Della Croce takes a comprehensive look at one of our most beloved foods in all its various guises, from spaghetti to soba to lasagna to dumplings. It covers fresh, dried, and filled pasta with a variety of both classic and modern sauces.