Summer Bolognese (Recipe)

Technically, it's not summer yet, it really kinda just turned spring. I couldn't help myself ... and once again I'm blaming it all on Donna Hay. After reading about this pasta dish in her Feb/March '13 magazine, I don't see how I could reasonably be expected to wait.

I mean, seriously! The weather is warming up and I want fresh vegetables!

A slight confession here, I usually shy away from pasta dishes because they're usually quite heavy, and my goal for 2013 is to be gravitating toward a carb-free lifestyle. Honestly, I haven't been able to cut out carbs completely, but I have been successful about how much and how often I eat them. I kind of view pasta as one of my "treat" meals. I save them for  when I'm really craving some comfort.

Here is where I'd like to talk just a little bit about whole grains versus processed grains when it comes to carbohydrates. I was listening to a fabulous story on NPR recently that made decide if I was going to continue to have carbs in my life, I could at least eat the right kinds of carbs - beneficial carbs! We all know that whole grains are "better" for us than processed grains - for one thing you get more nutrients out of whole grains, but the studies revealed in this story provided some additional incentives for me, and hopefully you, to choose one over the other.

When it comes down to it, a cup of whole grain pasta has just as many calories, just as many "carbs" and just as much sugar as a cup of processed "white" pasta. In other words, I'm not saving any points on my WeightWatchers plan when I choose whole grain pasta versus regular pasta. So why go to all that trouble? For one very good reason, fellow eater: blood sugar.

In the study, half of a test group was given a bowl of instant oatmeal and the other half was served a bowl of steel-cut (whole) oatmeal. While the blood sugar in the instant oatmeal group spiked rapidly, it also plummeted pretty quickly and the testers complained of feeling hungry long before the whole-grain group did. The whole-grain oatmeal group's blood sugar went up gradually and maintained at a steady level for a longer period of time before slowly dropping. That group admitted that they felt fuller, longer.

What I take away from that is I may be eating the same amount of calories up-front, but it's going to sustain me for a lot longer. This means I'm less apt to head for the fridge in an hour or two. Ding! Ding! Ding! Lightbulbs were going on in my head! Eating a whole grain versus a processed grain could actually help me eat less!

Remember last week when I mentioned that I like to try to give you the recipe exactly as I find and first try it? Well, this time I'm going to give you my revision of Donna Hay's Summer Bolognese because mine shaves off a bit of the fat - I use ground turkey in place of ground hamburger, and I make use of a whole-wheat pasta versus a more processed one. Honestly, though, the preparation and ingredients she uses to make the bolognese sauce make it nearly impossible to shed a tear over trading out beef for turkey. It's incredibly savory and satisfying, I promise you.

This dish has so much going for it: a hearty nuttiness from the whole-wheat pasta, the deep richness and spiciness (yay!) of the bolognese sauce which is brightened by the fresh cherry tomatoes and tangy Kalmata olives. Add some fresh basil and, well, to coin a phrase from Iron Chef, "It's like an explosion of flavor, in my mouth!"

Every mouthful of this pasta dish makes me glad to be alive. I really enjoyed making and eating this dish and I hope you will, too!

Summer Bolognese

Recipe Adapted from Donna Hay - serves 4-6

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil + 1/8 cup Meyer Lemon Olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons thyme leaves

2 teaspoons dried red chile flakes

kosher salt and cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 pound mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup Kalamata olives

basil leaves, to serve

finely grated parmesan, to serve

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with 1/8 cup Meyer Lemon Olive Oil if you can find it. If you can't, substitute with regular olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, garlic, thyme and chile and cook, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 6-8 minutes or until browned. Add the salt, pepper, sugar and tomato paste and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 3-4 minutes or until the liquid is reduced.

Toss the pasta with the bolognese and scatter the fresh tomatoes and olives on top. Top with basil leaves and sprinkle with parmesan cheese to serve.