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How to Navigate the Pasta Menu

Going out for a pasta dinner is nice, but it can also blow your diet.

Registered dietician Katherine Brooking, a contributor for Cooking Light magazine, has some tips and tricks to help you successfully navigate the pasta menu and make a healthier choice.

Navigating an Italian Pasta Menu
Pasta is all about the fixings, according to Brooking. The carbohydrates are fine, she says, but how are they sauced or stuffed? Fettuccine alfredo can weigh in at 1,220 calories, but swap marinara for the cream sauce and the calories and fat plummet. Cheese dishes are OK every once in a while, Brooking said, but like anything, in moderation

Smart Pasta Strategies
Brooking recommends passing up typically preassembled pasta dishes, like lasagna, since you can't specify more or less of key ingredients like cheese. And don't feel compelled to join the clean plate club. If your serving is enormous, take some (or most!) home with you.

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How to Steer Clear of Pasta Pitfalls
1. Avoid Cream Sauces
Stick to olive oil or tomato sauce pastas, or substitute those for a cream sauce,if possible.
2. Ask your server about half portions
Pasta dishes can be huge -- a half order might be more than enough.
3. Grated cheese on the side, please.
Add a tablespoon yourself rather than the three or four the kitchen might deploy.

RECIPE:

Pasta Puttanesca

INGREDIENTS:
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 canned anchovy fillets, chopped (about 1/4 ounce)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

METHOD:
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies to pan; cook 1 minute. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add red pepper; cook 30 seconds. Add vodka; cook 1 minute. Add olives, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper.

2. Combine tomato mixture and pasta in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 8 plates; sprinkle each serving with 2 teaspoons cheese.

Yield: 8 servings

CALORIES 322 (16 percent from fat); FAT 5.9g (sat 1.4g,mono 2.7g,poly 0.6g); IRON 2.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 116mg; CARBOHYDRATE 52.1g; SODIUM 595mg; PROTEIN 11.9g; FIBER 3.8g

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