Eat And Live Well The Italian Way

IN THE KITCHEN

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Anyone who has traveled in Italy knows that the Italian lifestyle is defined by a love of good food, a passion for flavor, and a vibrant lifestyle. But you don't have to vacation in Rome to live "la dolce vita" -- eating and living Italian style is a way of life that can be enjoyed anywhere, all year around.

Though Italian culture emphasizes eating for enjoyment (notice you don't meet many Italians on fad diets?), the Italian diet also happens to be one of the healthiest in the world; incorporating fresh, wholesome foods that are rich in nutrients and low in unhealthy fats.

To help guide people on how to eat and live like an Italian, Barilla -- the Italian food brand -- partnered with a team of nutritionists to create a new model that demonstrates the Italian way of eating as well as the various components that go into creating a perfectly balanced pasta meal. It's also worth noting that this model of eating fits well within the parameters of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the My Pyramid Food Guidance system, so anyone who considers Italian to be their favorite cuisine can feel good about eating the Italian way while benefiting from a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Sure, there are still people who think of pasta as fettuccine smothered in fat-laden cream sauce. But traditional pasta meals are fresh, light, and easy to put together with nutritious, seasonal ingredients. Pasta is a perfect delivery system to get many healthy foods in your diet -- such as a variety of colorful vegetables, tomato sauce, olive oil, fish and lean cuts of poultry. And pasta is low in sodium and cholesterol-free, as well as a good source of thiamin, folic acid, iron, riboflavin and niacin.

Pasta also ranks among children's favorite foods -- especially when they can help prepare the meal. "Cooking pasta together is an easy way to get your family eating and communicating better," said Lynn Fredericks, author of Cooking Time is Family Time. "Let kids choose the pasta shape, help chop vegetables, set the table -- cooking is a lot more fun when everyone pitches in."

Start experimenting with different variations on pasta meals to keep dinnertime interesting and healthy. For starters, try these recipes for typical Italian dishes that offer exceptional taste and nutrition. For many more authentic pasta meal recipes as well as tips on eating, cooking and living the Italian way, visit the new Barilla America website at www.barillaus.com.

White Bean Pasta e Fagioli

Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 small carrots, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, excess stems removed, torn

1/2 bunch kale, excess stems removed, torn

1, 28-ounce can tomatoes

2, 15-ounce cans canellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 cups chicken broth

1 cup Barilla Ditalini

1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté 3--4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add greens and stir until wilted.

Add tomatoes, squashing them gently by hand over pot to break them apart. Add remaining juice of tomatoes as well.

Add beans and chicken broth.

Add ditalini, 2 tablespoons parsley, oregano, pepper and salt. Bring to boil and cook 10--12 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Stir in remaining parsley and 1/2 cup cheese. Serve with remaining cheese. Serve with crusty bread and drizzle with olive oil if desired.

Farfalle With Chicken and Chard

Serves 4--6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 bunch Swiss chard, ends removed and leaves torn

1 cup chicken broth

1 box Barilla Farfalle

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, pepper and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes.

Fill large pot with lightly salted water and bring to boil.

Add chard to skillet and vegetables and stir, mixing thoroughly until wilted.

Add chicken broth and remaining salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is cooked through.

While broth is heating, cook farfalle. Drain and return to pot.

Add chicken mixture to hot farfalle; toss. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with cheese and chopped parsley.

From Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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