Don’t Weight Up: Pasta Is Back, Baby

April 11, 2018

As much as I dislike telling people ‘I told you so’ (we all know that’s a lie), I loved opening the newspaper last week to read a report that pasta isn’t fattening. Of course, we Neapolitans always knew this. Even Sophia Loren once quipped, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”

I did a little digging on the background of the article. Apparently, there is a clinical scientist at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Dr John Sievenpiper, who works with the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre. Dr Sievenpiper did a study using 2448 people in 32 randomised trials, and concluded that “pasta doesn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat.” What’s more, his study showed that eating regular amounts of pasta (three times a week) as part of a low-GI diet (more wholegrains, no processed food and pasta with proteins etc.) can even help you lose weight.

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You could only imagine my happiness. And while dried pasta will always have its place, particularly in dishes that you don’t want to absorb the broth (e.g. spaghetti vongole) we have, and always will, make our own pasta here at Bar M. We have the size and capability to do it, as well as the skill and passion. Whereas a lot of the so-called ‘fresh pasta’ makers in Australian restaurants make their version with flour, water and salt, we make our pasta all’uovo with fresh eggs, excellent 00 flour, salt and extra virgin olive oil.

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The difference between dried and fresh pasta is so obvious when you taste it. The latter is silky, light and absorbs broth in the most delicious way. Many customers message me hours after their meal to say how light they feel in the stomach.

My first memories of pasta making was with Maria Pia Simonella when I was aged about seven. At the time Maria Pia was a home cook; decades later she opened Café Nino in Woollahra. She would host our family every Sunday for lunch or dinner, and making fresh pasta was a ritual. As the eldest child, I would help Maria Pia in the kitchen make the pasta. (Her son was six months younger than me, but being a boy he wasn’t expected to help back then.) Invariably we would have pasta and pollo alla paesana which is fried ‘peasant’s’ chicken with peas. At Christmas or Easter it would be soup with fresh tortellini.

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Maria Pia used to make thin layers of pasta and roll them into conical shapes. They were these tiny little tubes and inside the tubes were filled just with parmesan cheese. You would roll them up and put in the broth, then slowly lift to your mouth. Delicious.

I used to love watching Maria Pia cook. She’d make ricotta from scratch, grow olives and bottle her own passatta. These are all the skills we’ve now lost, the simple things that this generation won’t or can’t do at home.

However, here at Bar M I am doing everything I can to keep these traditions and skills alive. It is costlier and more labour intensive to do so, but my customers really can taste the difference. And that starts with our fresh house-made pasta. Now, though, I can tell them to not feel so guilty about eating it!

Hope to see you in the restaurant soon,

Paola

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