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Cookbooks

Joe Bastianich's secrets to making 'Healthy Pasta'

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Joe Bastianich, who was a judge of “MasterChef", has released a calorie-cutting cooking about pasta.

Joe Bastianich knows about good food. The 46-year-old businessman is the son of famed chef and television personality Lidia Bastianich and together with his mother and chef Mario Batali, partners in dozens of successful restaurants around the world –including one of New York’s best eateries, Del Posto. He’s also appeared as a judge on “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior”.

I think pasta has gotten a bad rap here --not because of all the excessive, saturated fat that they put on it --but also because the over-portioning.

Bastianich has just released a cookbook with his sister Tanya that is a seeming oxymoron: low fat pasta dishes. Called “Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food,” it’s teeming with lots of delicious noodle options like gnocchi with lentils, spaghetti and onion frittata and they are all under 500 calories.

Bastianich spoke to Fox Foodie about the book and why good ingredients are key.

Fox Foodie: When do you start losing weight?

Joe Bastianich: About 10 years I started running marathons and I lost 50 pounds. I wanted to change my lifestyle. 10 years prior after quitting smoking I had gained 50 pounds and it was time to lose it. I changed my diet a bit, became more of an athlete, started running marathons.

Recipe: Linguine with Pancetta, Peas, and Zucchini

This book is a result of a lot of changes I did in how I eat and don’t deny yourself anything.  Just eat it in a smarter way.  It’s about having pasta and making it lower in calories and healthful. It’s about technique.

A lot of the techniques in here are not so obvious ways of being able to have all the flavor and pleasure and fulfillment of being able to eat pasta without all the unnecessary calories.

Fox Foodie: Like how?

Joe Bastianich:  The book is 100 recipes under 500 calories. The basic pasta portion is going to be under half of that, we’re talking about making a sauce that’s basically a condiment for your pasta, under 250, 300 calories. I think that’s one of the main thrusts of the book; that the noodles are sacred and you need to cook them properly, but the sauce is not an equal part. 

It’s no different from a salad dressing being on a salad. So that’s the main principle and then how you build the building blocks for creating that sauces. Use butter, use oil, use cheese, use bacon, use everything you want but use it at the proper times and at the proper dosage, so instead of sautéing in oil, you steam it with a little bit of water or oven roast your vegetables instead of sautéing; all these little techniques that take out the fat but keep the flavor.

Fox Foodie: So you’re not saying it’s steamed veggies on a tiny mound of pasta?

Joe Bastianich:  No, the essence of the book is fully cooked, flavorful pasta dishes without all the excess calories. Not steamed vegetables on top of boiled pasta at all.

Fox Foodie: And you’re having pasta like it’s served in Italy, where it’s a small serving size?

Joe Bastianich:  It’s based on the standard one pound package of pasta which is six servings. So a serving is basically 80 grams, 3.6 ounces, which is what a real serving of pasta is. If you’re hungry you can double it, which is 1000 calories, which is not a lot for a pasta meal.

Fox Foodie: It’s hard to believe that pasta can help you lose weight.

Joe Bastianich: I think pasta has gotten a bad rap here --not because of all the excessive, saturated fat that they put on it --but also because the over-portioning.

Recipe: Baked Rigatoni with Creamy Mushrooms and Squash

Fox Foodie: What is the most important technique when cooking pasta?

Joe Bastianich:  A big part of the communication of the book is the size of the portions. And another thing is the cooking water of the pasta.  Salted properly, it is one of the great underused ingredients. The water you boil the pasta in, that starchy water is the perfect thing to add flavor. You know cooking your noodles in the sauce at the last minute, these are all little secrets that add so much flavor and texture to the dish and no one knows them.

Fox Foodie: What’s your favorite recipe from book?

Joe Bastianich:  I have to say the turkey meatballs is an amazing plate of food. The turkey meatballs are super.

Fox Foodie: So what’s your advice to people who want to lose weight?

Joe Bastianich:  It’s mathematical. Eat less, exercise more.