Italian food, we were once told, is the most unhealthy of all ethnic food in the U.S..  Worse than Asian food, worse than Mexican food.  Sadly, in America and other countries outside of Italy, it is true.  Italian food has become synonymous with pasta, cheese, tomatoes and meat.  When we think Italian, we think heavy meals of gigantic portions, and rich desserts.

Insalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroAt a recent party, the hostess, holding a plate full of catered Italian-American food and talking to us about Due Spaghetti, asked us how we manage eat Italian and yet stay so thin.  We didn’t know how to answer her.  “This isn’t Italian food.” would not have been polite, despite being true.  We were actually eating Italian-American food.  The difference is substantial.  While Italian cuisine certainly includes some rich dishes, authentic Italian food, especially that originating from the southern Italian regions, is among the world’s healthiest.

Insalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroThe much-acclaimed Mediterranean diet was inspired by the culinary traditions of Southern Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, where olive oil, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains serve as the foundation of people’s diet.  Fish and seafood is also a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), and wine is moderate, while meat and meat products are rare.

In Italy meals are balanced.  A carb-based first course of pasta or rice is followed by a protein-based second course of fish, eggs, or lean meat.  Consumption of red meat is infrequent, portions are small, vegetables are abundant, and dessert is a simple fresh fruit.  Where that diet still prevails, people boast among the highest longevity and the lowest disease rates in the world.  It is a far cry from the Italian-American fare that has become known around the globe as Italian cuisine.

In the warm summer months, meals are often light and simple in Italy.  The piatto unico, or single course meal, is increasingly common for lunch and sometimes for dinner.  One of our favorites is a refreshing summer salad made of lattuga (romaine), fresh corn, tuna, mozzarella and tomatoes.  It is light, yet filling enough to make a meal of.

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Ingredients
(quantities are all as desired)

Hearts of Romaine
Canned whole kernel corn
Fresh mozzarella
Tuna, in olive oil
Roma tomatoes
Salt
Ground pepper
Olive oil

Directions
Chop the romaine, tomatoes, and mozzarella into bite-sized pieces, and place into a salad bowl.  Drain the olive oil off of a can or more of tuna, and add it to the salad.  Add sea salt, ground black pepper and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil if desired.  Toss, and enjoy.

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3 thoughts on “Alla salute!

  1. The funny thing is, all of those cuisines, Asian, Mexican and Italian, are perfectly healthy in their original, authentic versions. It’s the “Americanization” process that’s the problem. The good news is that more and more people are interested in getting to know what these cuisines are really about. But, unfortunately, not everyone…

  2. So true! I always balk when people tell me that pasta is unhealthy. Pasta is perfectly fine if you eat small portions, dress it with vegetables and don’t overdo the oil and butter. All things Italians always do!

  3. We all know this is a delicate topic. I get sad at seeing how much faster disinformation travels than information and also how much resistance information encounters. Misinformation apparently makes for more interesting news. That’s a lovely salad. I am so ready for tomato season!

What do you think?