When you think Italian cuisine you may think cheese-heavy dishes, drooling pizzas and mascarpone by the bowl-full. While these are true, remember that Italian cuisine is also a wonderful mixture of colourful ingredients, sun-ripened vegetables, the tastiest cheese and melt-in-your-mouth pasta. It’s a cuisine of patience, care, and warmth, and it would be such a shame to miss out on it when your are watching your weight and health.
When picked right, Italian dishes make perfectly healthy meals. Obviously, forget the fast-food pizza and plates with more oil and cheese than actual pasta. You all know the taste assets of Italian cuisine… discover the health assets.
Italian cooking: starch
Between risotto, pizza dough, bruschetta and numerous pasta dishes, Italians consume complex carbs at every meal. Thanks to the progressive energy diffusion they permit, starches prevent that afternoon tiredness, and cravings that push us to eat rich snacks between meals.
Try: Mini red onion and orange zest pizzas.
Get some ready-made dough from your local Italian deli, but make sure it only contains flour, water, salt, and yeast (and perhaps a bit of sugar). Cut 2 red onions very finely, and some fresh cheese into little cubes (you can also do this without the cheese). Spread little balls of dough with a rolling pin and your fingers, to obtain 25cm circles.
Fold the edges over to form a 1cm rind. Transfer onto a lightly floured oven sheet. Garnish the dough circles with the onions, cheese cubes and some nuts. Grate half an orange’s zests over, and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Cook in the oven for 8 minutes or until golden. Remove and grate the other half of the orange, then sprinkle with pepper to serve.
Italian cooking: garlic and onion
Largely used in mediterranean countries, garlic and onion contribute to good heart and artery health. Onions bring quercetine among others, a well-absorbed antioxydant, and sulfur compounds which, as those present in garlic, help with blood fluidity.
Try: Napolitano style courgettes. This gluten free recipe can be made with added minced meet or ham, and more or less cheese according to tastes and diets. It’s very easy and quick to make, using some Dolmio Bolognese sauce which contains 87% tomatoes and all natural flavourings, including garlic an open-field grown onions.
You will need, for 6 people:
- 8 courgettes;
- 1 egg
- 75g of mozzarella
- 3 big spoonfulls of Dolmio Bolognese sauce
- 30g of grated parmesan
- Olive oil, salt & pepper
Cut the washed courgettes in thin slices. Beat the egg with the courgettes so as to cover all the slices. Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and fry the courgette slices.
Cut the mozzarella into small pieces. If adding meat, fry it a bit in a pan and mix with the mozzarella. In an oiled oven dish, put a layer of courgettes and cover with mozzarella. Cover with half of the Dolmio sauce, add another layer of courgettes, then finish with the rest of the Dolmio. Sprinkle grated parmeson on top and grill in the oven for 15 minutes. Buon appetito!
Italian cooking: olive oil
Ideal for cooking as it withstands high temperatures without burning, olive oil is also often used for marinades and flavouring. Choose “first cold-press extra-virgin”, to preserve the quality of essential fatty acids, vitamin E and polyphenols, which protect the cardio-vascular system.
Italian cooking: fresh herbs
Their properties: facilitating digestion and helping the liver function. The star: rosemary. Serve with lamb, chicken, or oven baked potatoes. Serve sage with fish or veal, thyme with grilled vegetables, soups or meats, and basil with salads and particularily tomatoes.
Try: home-made courgette pesto.
Cut 4 small courgettes into pieces, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and blend.
Grosely cut 2 garlic cloves. Grill 5 hazelnuts in a dry pan, then reserve on the side. In a kitchen robot, chop 15 more hazelnuts, blend in 10 basil leaves, the garlic and 4 big spoons of olive oil, until the mixture is smooth. Add a big spoonful of parmesan, then incorporate the courgettes and grilled nuts.
Serve this sunny pesto with wholemeal bread, as a dip or as a sauce.