The Dude Diet: Pasta Edition

I’ve been separated from Logan for most of the past week, but I like to think that he’s keeping it tight and sticking to his maintenance plan. I’m slowly starting to trust his eating habits more and more, but he did send me the following picture of the braised short rib grilled cheese from my last post. Not one, but two of them…

Scary. And burnt.

So, needless to say, I’m slightly concerned. Logan is also on spring break this week, which doesn’t bode well for The Dude Diet or “the outline of his six-pack.” However, he will be spending the next five days in Lake Tahoe rather than on the beach, so at least his boat drink consumption will be kept to a minimum. Thank God for small miracles.

Logan on Spring Break.

This week, I would like to take the opportunity to focus on a food that regularly challenges Logan’s commitment to The Dude Diet: pasta. This post could not be more appropriately timed, since he will be dining out unsupervised multiple times this week. To put it mildly, Logan is a big fan of pasta. If it is on a menu, there is a 99% chance that he will order it. We’re not talking your standard spaghetti with marinara sauce, people. Logan will seek out the “dankest” pasta he can find, which usually involves meatballs and/or sausage, large quantities of melted cheese, and some sort of cream sauce. I have actually come to dread the moment when the waiter asks whether he would like freshly grated parmesan. The poor guy usually has to keep grating for several minutes while Logan says things like, “Oh yeah, keep it coming, dude.” It gets awkward. He will then crush his mountain of cheese-covered pasta at warp speed, wiping his plate clean with multiple pieces of bread.

To be honest, we haven’t been to many Italian restaurants recently, so I haven’t given too much thought to Logan’s pasta fetish. Unfortunately, I was reminded of it in full force a couple of weeks ago, when Logan got into a heated discussion about The Olive Garden with our cab driver. I don’t recall exactly how the subject came up, but the two of them spent a solid twenty minutes talking about the importance of “navigating the menu,” dealing with “rookie waiters,” and extolling the virtues of the endless pasta bowl and breadsticks. To be honest, I’m not sure when (or with whom) Logan is dining at the Olive Garden, but the thought of him “getting dirty at The OG” may be one of the most disturbing ever. Not to hate on The Olive Garden, which I’m sure is totally classy and delicious, but I wouldn’t recommend becoming a regular unless you plan on wearing elasticized pants for the foreseeable future.

the-dude-diet-pasta-edition
This is why you’re fat.

Since this illuminating cab ride, I have noticed that Logan still has a significant amount of pasta in his diet. In his recent late night confessionals, he has admitted to having a “few bites” (read: servings) of different pastas when they serve Italian for lunch at school. This is at least once a week. He has also asked me several times why I don’t cook pasta more often. Seriously, dude? Despite all of my Dude Diet tutelage over the past 6 months, Logan still seems to underestimate the danger that pasta poses to his wonderland body. This is upsetting, but it’s about to change.

I’m going to hit you with the ugly truth right now, dudes. Pasta is a refined and processed food with almost no nutritional value. It is difficult to digest, and it literally forms sludge in your intestinal track. Take a second to enjoy that visual. And that is before you douse your pasta in meat and/or cream sauces that send the saturated fat and sodium content of your plate of carbs through the fucking roof.  To give you an idea of what you’re eating, a restaurant portion of Fettucine Alfredo can contain up to 1220 calories and 75 grams of fat. Unforgivable. If you must eat pasta, I have composed a short list of things to keep in mind before you dig in.

3 things for dudes to remember about pasta:

1. Portion size is crucial. A meal-sized portion of pasta is 1 cup. A restaurant portion is usually 3-4 times that. Unless you are running a marathon (which Logan has not since 2010, and probably never will again), you should not be shamelessly carbo-loading with bowls of pasta the size of your head.

2. Cream sauce is the devil. Think about it, dudes. Cream sauces are made with heavy cream. And butter. And cheese. These are three things that you should be avoiding unless Mario Batali is your ideal body type.

3. Please, not so much cheese. Many pasta dishes contain obscene quantities of cheese. Lasagna, ravioli, stuffed shells, baked ziti, etc. contain an average of 3 servings of cheese. If you are confused as to why this is a problem, please see the Dude Diet’s lesson on portion control. Also, please refrain from covering your pasta in a thick layer of parmesan cheese. It is embarrassing. And that much salt will literally give you a heart attack (maybe not immediately, but definitely soon). A tablespoon will do. Capiche?

Dudes, I know that pasta is delicious and a life without it probably doesn’t seem worth living. Next time you have the urge to crush some carbs, try this Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe:

You’re going to love this, dudes. If for no other reason than that there is penne, sausage, and cheese involved. Those three ingredients alone are enough to incite Widespread Panic levels of excitement in Logan. This pasta is hearty and comforting, and you won’t be forced to unbutton your pants after eating it (which should be a given). The hot Italian turkey sausage and chili flakes provide the perfect kick of spice, and using fire-roasted tomatoes gives the sauce more intense flavor without any added salt. The slight bitterness and crunch from the broccoli rabe perfectly rounds out this awesome meal.

If you are wondering, how penne with sausage and broccoli rabe could possibly be Dude Diet friendly, let’s break it down. First of all, I sneakily used whole wheat penne, which is less processed and higher in fiber than your average white pasta. This means that you will actually feel more full after eating less. Wild concept, I know. Plus, you may actually prefer the slightly nuttier, rustic taste of whole wheat pasta. Just to be clear, dudes, I am not advocating eating mass quantities of whole-wheat pasta either, but it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. Turkey sausage is a leaner alternative to pork and beef sausage, and the tomato sauce is virtually fat free. Each serving of this pasta has a full serving of vegetables thanks to the broccoli rabe, which contains a healthy dose of nutrients. And because Pecorino Romano is so flavorful, you don’t need to use more than a tablespoon or two in order to satisfy your need for cheese.

This Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is incredibly simple to prepare. I promise even the most novice domestic dude(-ette) can pull this off in less than a half hour. It’s the perfect hassle-free weeknight dinner, but you better believe you’ll blow guests away with this pasta if you choose to entertain. Serve it with a salad and your finest bottle/box of red wine, and you’ve got yourself an instant dinner party. People will love you for making use of broccoli rabe (it just sounds impressive), and for looking out for their beach bodies. Get after it.

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe: (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ yellow onion, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
8 oz whole wheat penne
1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces (discard the bottom inch of the stems)
¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano (optional)

 

Preparing your Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe:

-Start by making your sauce. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. When hot add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes until no longer pink, breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon.

-When the sausage is cooked, add the minced onion and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes until the onions become translucent.

-Add the tomatoes and the chili flakes and simmer for 10-15 minutes while you cook your pasta and broccoli rabe.

-Add the penne to a large pot of boiling salted water. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes on its own before adding the chopped broccoli rabe. (Make sure that you’ve washed the broccoli rabe very well…it can have a slightly dirty taste if you slack on this. Gross.)

-Cook for five more minutes and strain the cooked pasta and broccoli rabe. (The penne should be al dente and the broccoli rabe tender.

-Pour the pasta back into the large pot and add your sauce. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Top with grated Pecorino Romano if you wish. Enjoy your faux carbo-loading, dudes.

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 hot Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ yellow onion, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
  • 8 oz whole wheat penne
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces (discard the bottom inch of the stems)
  • ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano (optional)

Instructions

  1. Start by making your sauce. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. When hot add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes until no longer pink, breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. When the sausage is cooked, add the minced onion and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the tomatoes and the chili flakes and simmer for 10-15 minutes while you cook your pasta and broccoli rabe.
  3. Add the penne to a large pot of boiling salted water. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes on its own before adding the chopped broccoli rabe. (Make sure that you’ve washed the broccoli rabe very well…it can have a slightly dirty taste if you slack on this. Gross.) Cook for five more minutes and strain the cooked pasta and broccoli rabe. (The penne should be al dente and the broccoli rabe tender.)
  4. Pour the pasta back into the large pot and add your sauce. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Top with grated Pecorino Romano if you wish.
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