First came low-carb, then gluten-free. In the past 10 years, Americans have been making changes to their diets that haven’t been so great for pasta.
In an effort to rebuff pasta’s reputation as an unhealthful food, Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali — whose mother is Lidia Bastianich, the reining queen of Italian cooking in America —have published “Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food” (Knopf, $26.95).
The book is filled with lighter pasta dishes that have less than 500 calories per serving but still satisfy, such as this ricotta-dressed mafalde with wilted spinach, pine nuts and, if you like a little sweet with your salty, golden raisins.
If you can’t find the long, wavy mafalde, you can substitute another wavy shape, like campanelle, or simply another long, flat shape like fettuccine. You can also use pasta made from different grains or gluten-free pasta; just be sure to adjust the cooking time of the pasta.
Mafalde with Spinach and Pine Nuts
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
12 cups packed baby spinach leaves (about 8 ounces)
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. dried mafalde or fettuccine
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
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.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. If you are going to use the raisins, put them in a small bowl and ladle over enough hot pasta water just to cover. Let soak for 5 minutes, drain, pat dry and coarsely chop.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add 1 cup pasta water and simmer until the spinach is tender and the sauce is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the mafalde to the boiling water. When the pasta is al dente, remove it with tongs and add directly to the skillet with the spinach, reserving the pasta water. Add the raisins, pine nuts and orange zest. Bring to a simmer and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add the ricotta and stir just until it melts into the sauce, adding a splash of pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with the grated Parmesan, toss and serve. Serves 6.
— From “Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food” by Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf, $26.95)