On Mark Bittman’s pasta advice


Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

Well that’s just great.

As soon as I start to like one thing one way, Mark Bittman goes ahead and tells me to revert to my old ways. In case you don’t know, Mark Bittman writes for the food section of the New York Times, which unofficially makes him the g-d of the food world. Alright, maybe he’s second to Alice Waters.

But anyway, we’re arguing about pasta. Mark suggests using: MORE sauce, LESS pasta.

If you cooked me pasta a year ago, you would have seen me pile the sauce on like the world’s sauce supply was running out. But lately, I’ve been complementing my pasta with much smaller heaps of sauce, maybe only one spoonful. Gasp! I decided I don’t need to douse the stuff to take in the flavor, and somehow it just seemed healthier.

But now, NOW Mark Bittman, the g-d of the food world of course, tells me it’s not. I appreciate the advice Mark, I really do, but it just figures that now I like less sauce better. Couldn’t you have made your revelation a year ago when I could have told you I’ve been doing that all along?

According to Mark, the reason he makes his suggestion is because eating ‘harmless and innocent’ pasta can be just as bad as eating “white bread or biscotti.” He counters the criticism Italians gave him years ago about the American way of eating pasta: too much sauce atop overcooked pasta. These pasta experts encouraged us Americans to let the pasta speak for itself and be mildly complemented by an accompanying sauce.

But Mark listened to his gut (maybe because it was getting bigger) and decided to encourage Americans to go the healthy route.

Well, it’s possible we’re not talking about the same thing here. Mark suggests using or making your own sauces solely out of vegetables, and while I do enjoy vegetable sauces very much, I often eat mine with meat sauce. With meat sauce, comes extra grease, so to be encouraged to “pile it on” seems to counteract the health factor (which I do acknowledge he notes in his article.)

So Mark, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will consider your advice when the sauce selection is healthy, but I hope the rest of America doesn’t mistake your health tips for permission to glop on the alfredo and think they’re doing themselves a favor.

BUT luckily for me, Mario Batali IS on my side. Batali thinks the main feature of the dish is most certainly the pasta, and us Americans and our relatively newfound turn-around shouldn’t have it any other way.

Here are some pasta recipes Mark might like (assuming you use his proportions):
Dilly Pasta
Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce
Cappelini Primavera
Cheese Tortellini with Vegetables
Spinach and Broccoli Pasta

What guidelines do you follow?

-Hillary, planning on “starting with tomato sauce
Editor, Recipe4Living

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  • http://www.recipe4living.com Sarah

    I could never ever imagine eating pasta with just one spoonful (gasp-hehe) of sauce! You have to have more sauce than pasta!

    I don’t eat a lot of pasta but when I do, I put a lot of sauce on top of it. Honestly why would you pick the taste of the pasta noodles over the rich and delicious taste of the sauce. I am not talking Alfredo sauce, that should be outlawed with the amount of fat it has but homemade or store bought spaghetti sauce.

    Shame on you Hillary, what is the point of eating spaghetti? And don’t say because it is healthier this way! It’s like eating a piece of cardboard with a little butter on it. I think you need to go with Mark’s advise and change your ways :)

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Haha, thanks for calling me crazy Sarah! For the record, I don’t put butter on my pasta. I like it plain. It just tastes healthier than the oil or grease that the pasta soaks up from the sauce.

    BUT, I’m not saying there aren’t good sauces out there and that i don’t like to pile on a whole bunch when the sauce IS good for you. And believe me, there was definitely a day when my plate had so much sauce you thought I was eating soup, not pasta.

    Thanks for the comment :)

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Sarah

    You like it plain? Yuck! That is all I can say.

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Haha, fine then, we’ll just agree to disagree!

  • http://aloshaskitchen.blogspot.com melissa

    thank you for that tomato sauce link – trying that FOR SURE!

    and I’m going with batali on this one. because I like my pasta with less sauce, thank you, and I don’t care what bittman has to say about it. pbbbbbt. ;)

  • http://www.chewonthatblog.com Maxine

    I’ve never been one for glops of red sauce. I’d much prefer sauteed veggies and garlic tossed in olive oil… although I have been known to choose a cream sauce every now and then. But you make an excellent point that many Americans could use his advice to pile on the fatty sauces because, let’s face it, what percentage of Americans actually cook their own sauce?? This topic’s been buzzing all over today, but this is a nice perspective. Thanks!

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Melissa – No problem, the recipe is from Amateur Gourmet’s book and you should buy it! It’s great. Thanks for siding with me, hehe.

    Maxine – You do seem like the veggie over gloppy sauce type, and I mean that in the best possible way (seriously, that just came out wrong). Haha. Thank you for the comment :)

  • http://www.thym-thym.blogspot.com Rose

    I am going with Batali too on this one, except for the al-dente part, I like my pasta a bit over cooked but shhh! don’t tell anyone.
    I don’t think you have to add ladles of sauce to the pasta to appreciate it, otherwise just have a soup…

  • http://whatdoyoudowiththat.blogspot.com/ Marsha

    “I hope the rest of America doesn’t mistake your health tips for permission to glop on the alfredo and think they’re doing themselves a favor.”

    Not to get all New Yorky, but for that to be the case, the rest of America would have to be either total morons or willfully only absorbing part of the article since Bittman clearly says, “Obviously this won’t work with every sauce–you don’t want to pull this trick with creamy or cheesy ones, or those based on meat–but it works with just about every vegetable you can think of, and with many fish preparations as well”

    And later in the article: “I’m not suggesting we return to oversauced baked ziti with sausages or spaghetti with three handball sized meatballs. Rather, I’m recommending that we exploit our astonishing supply of vegetables. . . augmented if you like with a bit of meat.”

    I don’t see how he leaves any lack of clarity about what he’s encouraging. (Except the subtext that he’s encouraging you to buy his new vegetarian cookbook ;-)

  • http://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com Ruth

    I did love the aritcle and I wish I could take one side over the other. Personally…there are times when I really want to taste the pasta…like when I make my own or when I buy some fresh ravioli or sacchinetti stuffed with somehting wonderful like potatoes & leeks. But man…give me meat sauce and it HAS to swamp the pasta!

  • http://aloshaskitchen.blogspot.com melissa

    hillary – I hadn’t heard of the book before you talked about it on here, but it’s been sitting on my amazon saved list since your funny bookstore story about it. ;)

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  • http://--- Germaine Holden

    Bittman gives tasty alternatives to those who cannot, for health reasons, enjoy all the carbs. Tried his veggie sauces with penne and they are delicious. Maybe he should do a ‘heart healthy” cookbook – or has he?

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Rose – Really? You like it overcooked? Alright I won’t judge. I like mine el dente personally :)

    Marsha – I do realize he clearly states this in his article and I thought I mentioned that. However, when hearing about the debate in passing, you don’t always take every detail! That’s why I’m worried :) Thanks for your comment!

    Ruth- I do go back and forth too. Like I said, last year I doused my pasta…this year I’ve changed :)

    Melissa- Oh good! Hehe, go out and get it!!

    Germaine – I like the way you put it! Tasty alternatives…hmmm…maybe I’ll rethink my whole point of view…I don’t believe he has done a cookbook entirely devoted to heart-healthy recipes but its probably that his cookbooks contain many such recipes as it is.

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