I live in Tuscany. I should have a lot to say about pasta. We eat it sometimes, but certainly not as often as Italians do. They love it, but they don’t eat a whopping big bowl of it like I used to in America. At a meal, they have antipasti, then a small bowl of pasta and then fish, chicken or meat with vegetables.
Italians eat their meals in this order for a reason. I am not sure what the reason is, but they take their digestion very seriously and apply a digestive rule to just about everything they eat. I once served soup with barley and vegetables followed by pasta to one of my oldest friend Molly and her Italian husband. He refused to eat the soup. I was slightly mortified, but I didn’t know that you are supposed to serve soup (with a grain) or pasta – but never both. With that said, Giovanni literally can’t eat pasta without a chunk of bread in his hand. Go figure.
Recently, my husband went over to a friend’s house in the next village of Monticello to see the work some pruners were doing on the olive trees. Afterwards, he popped into the kitchen to say hello to his friend’s wife, Kelly. The kitchen was full of activity – about three friends and three grandmas were there, a couple of open bottles of wine and a pasta production line. They used dozens of eggs that Kelly had from her chickens and were making tortellini.
The pasta has to be twisted around the finger at exactly the right moment before it dries out or it uncurls when it cooks – which we’ve all experienced with store-bought tortellini. The air was filled with their chatter and laughter and the smell of the filling that a few of the women were stuffing into little pieces of dough. They made trays of pasta which they shared between them to freeze. Kelly has promised to invite me around the next time.
What’s great about pasta is that you can keep it in the cupboard, it is convenient, versatile and wholemeal pasta is healthy. It’s a great way to introduce wholemeal food into your diet, particularly if you are wedded to white bread. Wholemeal pasta has fibre, iron and several B-vitamins.
Pasta is versatile. You can boil it, bake it, stuff it and add it to soups and stews. You can serve it with vegetables, beans, cheese, fish, poultry and meat. You can use it for either a quick meal when the kids don’t like what you’ve slaved over in the kitchen or use it in an impressive, time-consuming lasagne for friends. It’s fast food or slow food.
At Planet Organic, we have such a great range of pastas and noodles that you could eat a different one every day for weeks. If you like wheat, then eat your heart out. And if you don’t, you can choose from gluten-free, spelt and Kamut. Our Thomas the Tank Engine pasta is a big hit with the kids – not just for eating, but for playing games and gluing on paper.
If you are wheat or gluten-free, we have a great range of pastas made from brown rice, maize and rice, rice and millet and quinoa and rice. These come in spirals, penne and spaghetti. It’s good to add gluten-free pastas into your diet – just be sure not to overcook or they become soggy. Some of noodles are gluten-free, too, so try those out, as well.
It’s hard not to love noodles – and it’s fun to eat them with chopsticks. You can buy ‘rookie stix’ for children just learning on Amazon.co.uk for just £2.95 to get them started. We have curly egg noodles that you can substitute for any pasta – or they are wonderful dropped into soup before you serve it.
There are gluten-free noodles such as buckwheat soda, brown rice, millet and brown rice and sweet potato and buckwheat which can even be chopped up and served to babies who are chewing. And we have the traditional soba, made from wholewheat and buckwheat. For noodles with their own sauce, we have ramen noodles with miso or soya – fast food at its best.
Spelt & Kamut Pasta
This is an easy way to avoid wheat and include spelt and Kamut in your diet. My favourite is the Biona organic whole spelt lasagne. It is thin and light – no heavier than white pasta – and needs no pre-cooking in lasagne. I always achieve perfect results.
The love affair between pasta and tomatoes happened when pasta had been around for along time. The Spanish brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century after they were discovered in the New World, but they were not considered edible for quite a while. Documents say that tomatoes met pasta in 1839 and the love story continues today.
For when you don’t have time to make your own, it’s always worth having a jar of sauce or pesto in the cupboard for quick and easy pasta or pizza. Planet Organic has all of the classic sauces and pesto – including vegan pesto without cheese. The Seggiano Raw Basil Pesto Genovese is the best pesto I have ever had.