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Saturday, 20 October 2012

Healthy Italian Cooking

 
The Pasta Mia team in action
 
 
I lined up for a Tasting session by Angelo Tredicucci from Pasta Mia at Ponsonby's Nosh on a recent Saturday morning. As I bit into plump little pillows of smoked salmon ravioli sauced with a mixture of butter, oil, parsley, thyme, and lemon, I was hooked! I went on to sample the porcini mushroom filled ravioli in a reduced cream sauce. Rich, but equally delicious.
 
Pasta Mia simply means "My Pasta". It operates from a small boutique factory in Taupo where they create a wide range of bronze extruded pasta. Recently they have also added a range of fresh pasta sauces made to Angelo's family recipes.
 
So what makes this pasta taste so good? Extruding it through bronze dies results in a rough surface and makes it porous so it holds a sauce better than pasta made by other methods. It is made from durum wheat which is a coarsely ground whole grain flour that has not been bleached. This makes a pasta which has complex carbohydrates, and a low glycaemic index. With the addition of a little egg it gives a perfect mix of carbs and protein - so very nutritional.  
I bought some fresh Pasta Mia tagliatelli, cooked it for lunch, and stirred in a spoonful of meat sauce. For one person a nest was enough as it expanded considerably on cooking. It was the perfect carrier for the sauce which clung to each pasta strand making each bite very flavoursome. And it did fill me up. I found I didn't need to snack between lunch and dinner.
 
The fact that Pasta Mia pasta is good for you is very important to Angelo. He is passionate about making a contribution to healthy eating in his adopted country and feels that ‘We need a more balanced diet, more organic food, more living rather than dead food, less take-aways, more nutritional food, food that has good vibrations.’
 
Angelo himself is the picture of glowing good health. So what are the secrets of the healthy Italian diet he, his wife Michelle and two sons eat at home?
 
Eat less meat with your pasta.
 Instead of 200 grams of meat in the sauce, you could try 50 grams. This is how it is always eaten in Italy, and will still have a lovely flavour.
 
Keep the stress out of weekday meals by keeping them simple and quick to prepare.
During the week the family often just eats a pasta dish. For instance if you add a little chopped ham, some mushrooms and a little cream for richness to some pasta you have a very quick and tasty meal. Other veggies can also be added such as broccoli and peas.
Or if they do have a secondo (second course) after the pasta, it could just be a plate of thinly sliced meat such as prosciutto and some cheese (so again not much meat).
Don’t rush your food.
 Take the time to enjoy your meal. For Italians food evolves around occasions. They love to sit at the table for hours, especially on weekends
At Angelo and Michelle's home they start with antipasta, a first course (primo) of pasta and then a second course (secondo) of meat and vegetables followed by dessert (dolce). This creates a nicely rounded meal, in which all the textures and flavours come together harmoniously.
The antipasto may include salami, New Zealand cheeses, olives, sundried tomatoes and pickles. In the winter the first course (primo) may well be a fresh tagliatelli with mushrooms. And the second course (secondo) could be some braised pork/venison Or they might, instead of meat have a small camembert cheese which is baked briefly so that it puffs up.
 
Alongside some fresh ciabatta, some veggies such as potatoes, kumara, capsicums and olives roasted in a little olive oil and some good wine. For dessert they love tiramisu or panna cotta.
The menu changes in summer when they eat far more seafood such as fresh spaghetti with mascarpone and scallops. This may be accompanied by a rocket salad with nice ripe pears and pecorino cheese. Chilled limoncello and gelato is a popular dessert.
 
Angelo sounds almost as passionate about soccer as about Pasta Mia. He does find it regrettable that so many sports teams tuck into junk food after the match is over, so he is more than happy to rustle up a huge healthy pasta salad for his son's soccer team instead.
 
Angelo himself plays for the Taupo Soccer Masters. They have won several New Zealand Masters tournaments. What they eat on tour undoubtedly contributes to their success. He is their chef in charge. When they reach their destination they pitch big tents and take big pots. Angelo cooks but all the players pitch in and help to chop the vegetables. They love it!
 
Angelo feels we should celebrate ‘all the brilliant artisan products with amazing flavours which are unique to New Zealand and are adding to the pleasures of our table.’ But he is also looking further afield. He is part of NZ Natural Exports, which provides trade links between the clean green producers of New Zealand and importers worldwide. His ambition? To export Ravioli filled with New Zealand King Salmon or crayfish. Pasta Mia's star may well be about to rise further!
The following recipe has been kindly provided by Pasta Mia. To find out more about Pasta Mia, their recipe, stockists and stories visit www.pastamia.co.nz.

Porcini Mushroom Ravioli Al Prosciutto
Serves 2
Ingredients:
  • 300 gm Pasta Mia Porcini Mushroom Ravioli
  • 100 gm Sliced Prosciutto (Parma Ham) cut into little strips
  • ½ chopped onion
  • ½ glass white wine
  • 20 gm butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
In a saucepan melt the butter in the olive oil. Then add the fat previously removed from the prosciutto and the onion. Cook on medium heat till soft and golden, then add the rest of the prosciutto with the wine and let evaporate.
Meanwhile cook the ravioli for 3 minutes in abundant boiling salted water. Drain pasta and mix with sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. Serve and enjoy!
 


 

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