10/25/2010 11:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tips for World Pasta Day

2010-10-25-fusilli_with_zucchini.jpgThe fourth World Pasta Congress is in full swing October 25-26, 2010, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A new Healthy Pasta Meal Scientific Consensus Statement will come out of a special gathering for scientists. The meeting is important because a new Scientific Consensus Statement - the first since 2004, will be issued. It reinforces pasta as a healthy carbohydrate providing solid nutritional benefits when eaten as part of a balanced meal. It is based on the most updated body of scientific evidence about the healthfulness of pasta.

This is music to my ears because over the last 8 to 10 years, pasta has gotten a bum rap and paid a dear price in terms public perception. The pasta police and diet gurus have declared it a food non grata.

My Italian friends are more than amused when I tell them how their national dish is perceived here. We all know that too much of a good thing is not good. Italians know pasta is a good thing, and they treat it as it should be, with moderation. So instead of avoiding pasta in your diet, educate yourself about it and enjoy it as the Italians do. For instance, do you realize that one cup of cooked pasta, low in fat, low in sodium and high in amino acids is just 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and no cholesterol? That would be an average serving in Italy. Here a serving could be (and often is) an entire platterful!

Lets be realistic. How much pasta and what you put on it are the culprits here, not the pasta itself. Remember, pasta by itself is pretty dull; think of it as a blank canvas for you to get creative. If you follow the Italian model of a one cup serving with tomato sauce, the added benefit is lycopene from the tomatoes which current research seems to suggest is a cancer preventative. Even healthier is whole wheat pasta loaded with fiber and all the essential parts of the whole grain including the bran, endosperm and the germ. Add vegetables to pasta and you're even further ahead health-wise. One of the easiest combinations is whole wheat spaghetti teamed with roasted vegetables like carrots, onions, cauliflower or asparagus.

So go ahead and blow the whistle in support of eating pasta in moderation, not just on World Pasta Day but as part of an overall healthy diet.

5 Pasta Tips

  1. Short cuts of pasta such as rigatoni and ziti are best paired with chunky style sauces. Thin types like cappellini are best paired with thinner type sauces.

  • Adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water (which is starchy) to sauces can help them adhere to pasta.
  • For baked casseroles it is best to under cook the pasta first by 4 to 5 minutes since it will finish cooking in the oven.
  • Do not add olive oil to the cooking water to prevent sticking. Use 4 to 6 quarts of water to cook pasta and it will never stick.
  • A 4 to 5 quart pasta pot with insert drain is a must-have tool in your kitchen for cooking pasta correctly.
  • Dozens of good pasta recipes are available at