Health conscious pasta lovers, rejoice: Your favorite dish is back on the menu.
According to a recent study published in the health journal Nutrition and Diabetes, partially funded by Italian pasta maker Barilla, everyone's favorite carb does not, in fact, cause obesity, but rather contributes to a lower body mass index (BMI). The report analyzed the eating habits of over 23,000 Italians and found that individuals who ate pasta, which offers little to no nutritional value on its own, had slimmer waists and were more likely to adhere to a healthy Mediterranean diet of fresh produce, whole grains, and healthy fats.
So has the once vilified carb finally redeemed itself? Perhaps. While the report skims over small, yet important details, like the fact that the largest portion participants consumed was 3 oz. (fun fact: Italians generally treat pasta as a first course rather than as an entrée), the final takeaway is clear: If you're going to eat pasta, eat it like an Italian. That is to say, enjoy it in moderation, with high-quality ingredients (think: fresh heirloom tomatoes, wild mushrooms, and olives). If you need some culinary inspiration, we rounded up four delicious recipes. Buon appetito!
1. Leonardo Vignoli’s Cacio e Pepe
2. Gemelli with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cream
The secret to this divinely rich sauce? Cherry tomatoes cooked low and slow in the oven, which reduces the natural juices and intensifies flavor and sweetness. "By the time they're done roasting, you can practically eat them like candy," says Domenica Marchetti, author of The Glorious Vegetables of Italy ($30; amazon.com). Get the full recipe here.
3. Orecchiette with Fennel, Olives, and Bread Crumbs
Inspired by his travels in Sicily, James Beard award-winning chef Jeff Michaud, of Philadelphia's Osteria and Amis restaurants, created this luscious mix of celebrated Southern Italian ingredients. "Every bite packs in so much flavor," he says, "and the coarse panko bread crumbs add texture without absorbing too much liquid." Get the recipe here.
4. Wild Mushroom and Sage Casarecci
Super-foodie mother-daughter duo Nancy Harmon Jenkins, whose 1994 Mediterranean Diet Cookbook pioneered a movement, and N.Y.C. chef Sara Jenkins, of the N.Y.C. pasta haven Porsena, swear by this mouthwatering recipe from their joint cookbook, The Four Seasons of Pasta ($23; amazon.com). Get the recipe here.
For more details about the study, check out this article from our friends at Time.