Because of the recession, many people are shunning chi-chi French cuisine and all those complicated fusion dishes in favour of simple, comforting Italian fare. The trend is so popular there were articles about it in the New York Times and a number of financial papers. A while ago, I even wrote that business people in wealthy countries like Switzerland were meeting clients at Italian restaurants for meetings and opting for Italian eateries for lunch.
I love everything Italian, so I get quite upset when I hear people say Italian cuisine is fattening because of the pasta. What many North Americans don’t understand is that Italians from Italy do not eat the same size portions of pasta that are served in restaurants on this side of the Atlantic. If you’ve ever travelled to Italy, you probably noticed many Italians eat a small portion of pasta twice a day, and Italian women are as slim and as sexy as ever!
As much as I love French food, my passion for Italian cooking is just as strong. The two cuisines differ in many ways and I think that’s why I like them equally so much.
Italian cuisine forced me to love rapini, a bitter version of broccoli. When I was a kid growing up, our Italian gardener could have paid me a million dollars and I still would not touch rapini after tasting it once and absolutely hating it. Now, I eat rapini as often as I eat mushrooms (and I eat a lot of sautéed mushrooms!).
Like any other types of cuisine, Italian food can be as healthy or unhealthy as you want it to be. If you load up a plate with white pasta, pour a sauce made with loads of hydrogenated oil over it, then sprinkle pounds of cheese on top, then yes, I’d agree Italian food is unhealthy. On the other hand, if you eat the same pasta (yes, white pasta … I still have not given white pasta up, though I do eat wholewheat and multi-grain pasta regularly), top it with a lovely tomato or a meat sauce made with lean meat (all cooked in healthy olive oil) and sprinkle a small amount of cheese over it to flavour the dish (as opposed to drowning the pasta in it), then you have a totally different dish, lower in calories and much healthier for your body.
There are so many good things about Italian cuisine, but sometimes I think people don’t have the right tools (in this case, recipes) and often get lost in the diet-noise of what to eat and what not to eat. To help you make sense of Italian cuisine and start you off with some great recipe ideas, I’ve found these tasty Healthy Italian recipes from Eating Well. Try out a few to find a new list of healthy favourites!
Remember, if Italians from Italy can continue to eat white pasta and white potatoes (aka gnocchi), then why should North Americans give up carbs entirely? Why not learn the basics of healthy eating instead?
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