Chow Town

Lidia Bastianich’s children write a cookbook featuring 100 healthy pastas under 500 calories.

Tanya Bastianich Manuali says enough already: Enough anti-gluten doom and gloom. Enough carb bashing. Enough with the paleo promises.

“I think pasta has gotten such a bad rap,” says Bastianich Manuali, who was in Kansas City last week to formally open the 85-seat glass-enclosed Terrazza dining room addition at Lidia’s Kansas City in the Crossroads.

With a mother who is considered the first lady of Italian cooking and the reigning fairy godmother of pasta, Bastianich Manuali figured it was time to try a “next generation” approach.

She and her famous restaurateur brother Joe Bastianich put together “Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food” (Knopf), due out in April.

The cookbook features 100 pasta recipes under 500 calories.

Although she is not as well-known as her mother and brother, Bastianich Manuali is no stranger to cookbooks or pasta. She co-authors many of her mother’s cookbooks, handles production of the TV shows and markets Lidia-brand pastas and sauces. She also grew up eating pasta and points to her 93-year-old grandmother as a model of healthy eating, including the right amounts of pasta.

“That’s not a heaping plate of pasta like you see in the movies,” Bastianich Manuali says. And “it doesn’t need to be sauce-laden and swimming in olive oil.”

Just as different shapes of pasta were invented to go with different types of sauces, the various grains used to make pasta also offer different protein counts. To find the healthiest versions, Bastianich Manuali suggests reading the nutrition labels and choosing one that offers at least 7 grams of protein per serving.

Next, add ingredients that “pack a flavorful punch,” such as anchovies, artichokes and capers in brine, and sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil).

The book’s recipes naturally feature lean meats and seafood plus plenty of vegetables, such as Gemelli With Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts, Spinach Fettuccine With Poppy Seed Sauce, Spaghetti With Beet Pesto, Stuffed Shells With Roasted Vegetables and Ziti With Smoked Pork and Cabbage.

Bastianich Manuali’s favorite recipe?

A simple frittata, perfect for weeknight dinners, that gives a new life to leftover spaghetti, with just 389 calories.

To celebrate National Nutrition Month, here are a few tips from “Healthy Pasta”:

▪ Start with high-quality pasta made of durum wheat. Also consider kamut, barley, flaxseed, spelt or Jerusalem artichoke, as well as gluten-free pastas made from brown rice, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, amaranth, lentil or chickpea flours.

▪ Used starch-filled pasta water instead of olive oil to enrich sauces.

▪ Reduce the amount of olive oil you use by sweating the onion, garlic and other ingredients in a skillet before adding olive oil.

▪ Puree vegetables into sauces to boost nutrition.

▪ Make pestos out of nuts, such as walnuts or pistachios, and vegetables and herbs, such as kale or mint.

▪ Choose cheeses that are lower in fat.

▪ Eat the right amount; a 1-pound box of pasta should feed 6 people.

Jill Wendholt Silva is Chow Town’s award-winning food editor and restaurant critic. She is also the blog curator. To reach her call 816-234-4395 or Tweet her at @kcstarfood.

“This is a very basic frittata, lightened by substituting egg whites for half of the eggs,” Tanya Bastianich Manuali says. “We like to make this dish to use up leftover pasta that has already been sauced. Just add as directed in the recipe, but check before adding salt, as the pasta will already have some seasoning.

“This recipe has room for a few extra calories, so you can vary the frittata by adding leftover roasted vegetables or a little cooked lean meat, such as crumbled turkey sausage. A little goes a long way in a frittata, so don’t add more than 1 cup of extras.

“If you are watching your fat intake, use part-skim ricotta from the grocery store, but be sure to drain it. The draining concentrates flavor and takes out the excess liquid, which could otherwise make the frittata soggy. You can skip this step if you use fresh ricotta from an Italian deli; it’s already thick enough, though it will be higher in calories and fat.”

Spaghetti and Onion Frittata

Makes 6 servings

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 21/2 cups)

Pinch of sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 large eggs

5 large egg whites

1/3 cup nonfat milk

1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano

8 ounces spaghetti (or other long pasta), cooked and cooled

Put the ricotta in a small strainer lined with cheesecloth (or simply a very fine strainer without cheesecloth). Set over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

Preheat the broiler.

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and pinch of sugar. Stir to coat the onions in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the onions are wilted and dark golden, about 25 minutes. Scrape onto a plate. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites and milk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the parsley and grated Grana Padano, reserving 1 tablespoon cheese for the top of the frittata.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the spaghetti and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spaghetti is golden in places, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and stir to incorporate. Pour in the egg mixture and let cook until the bottom is set, about 6 minutes.

Dollop the ricotta in spoonsful evenly over the top of the frittata. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon grated Grana Padano. Broil until the top is golden but not dry or wrinkly and the frittata is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, but watch carefully — all broilers are different. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide onto a cutting board and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: “Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food” (Knopf) by Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali

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