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Fabio Viviani

Twirl On: Celebrate National Pasta Month with Chef Fabio Viviani

Written on October 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm , by

Dig in! (Photo by Kate Sears)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Get ready to twirl that fork—it’s National Pasta Month! One of our fave comfort foods has gotten a bad rap over the years due to its heavy carb count and fat-laden toppings, but a single half-cup serving of pasta actually comes in roughly 100 calories—not so bad. It’s naturally low in fat, contains no salt or cholesterol, and serves as a good source of folic acid and iron. In light of all that, we’re here to celebrate National Pasta Month with Top Chef New York’s Fabio Viviani. He dished on his favorite healthy ways to integrate this favorite comfort food into our meals all October long.

When it comes to cooking with pasta, simple is better, says Viviani, and everyone should try making it from scratch at least once—it’s surprisingly easy and tastes far better than its boxed counterpart. Homemade pasta’s simple ingredient list—egg, flour and water—transforms into a simple dinner within minutes. You can even steal Viviani’s own Perfect Pasta recipe here.

“Fettuccini is the easiest pasta to make,” he says. Pulse eggs, flour and water in a food processor with a blade attachment for 45 seconds. Take another two minutes to roll it, and that’s it! “Just spice it up with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. It’s one of the easiest meals and one of the most delicious.”

The real trick when it comes to pasta is portion control. We all know what happens when we sit down to a huge plate full of our favorite farfalle and just dig in. But Chef Viviani has two ways of measuring spaghetti and penne to prevent that oh-so-common carb overload: “The perfect portion of dry spaghetti for an adult is the diameter of a quarter, and for dry penne, a good portion is whatever you can hold in the palm of your hand.”

Here are some other helpful—and healthy—pasta cooking tips from Chef Viviani:

Cook pasta without water. Cook it straight in the sauce from start to finish because it will absorb much more flavor. Plus, you avoid overcooking it.

“Al dente” is easier to digest. Overcooked pasta absorbs way more water, which is why it feels heavy in your stomach and takes the body longer to process.

Adjust those ingredients. For more nutrient-dense pasta, trade one egg yolk for two additional egg whites, and replace white flour with a whole-wheat version. Add water as necessary.

When it comes to the sauce, lose the salt and grab the spices. Chef Viviani likes to use paprika, saffron, black pepper and chili flakes to really zest up the flavor without adding salt or calories.

Avoid oil until the end. Instead of using extra virgin olive oil in the cooking process, add a little drizzle on top of it at the end to reap its nutritional benefits without overdoing it.

Never eat leftover pasta as is. Traditional Italians refuse to reheat and eat leftover pasta the next day because it’s overcooked. Try tossing it into a soup or using it as an ingredient in a new recipe instead.

More from FITNESS:

Easy, Healthy Pasta Recipes

8 Healthy Pasta Sauce Choices

Low-Calorie Pasta Recipes

Top Chef Star Fabio Viviani Gets Sexy with Quaker Oats

Written on February 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm , by

Viviani cares about your heart. (Photo courtesy of Quaker Oats)

A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is…sexy? When Fabio Viviani is serving it, we like to think so. Which is why he’s the star of Quaker’s new video in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement. And on the day of love (Valentine’s Day, in case you missed it), we had to get a piece of this Italian’s mind. Here’s his take on breakfast, and what you should be doing to spice up your love life.

Tell me about this steamy video! What made you want to get involved? 

It’s a good cause. If you’ve followed me in the last few years, then you know I’m all about good food and what’s good for you. As a chef, it has to be tasty. And well, let’s be honest, sometimes something that’s good for you is not necessarily delicious. But oatmeal is! So when I was approached by the Go Red for Women movement with Quaker Oats, it was perfect – we’re talking about food, breakfast and ladies – it was a good fit.

Whose idea was it to make it a funny, sexy video? 

The good news is that it’s easy for me to make things steamy because I have an accent! But if I’m going to do a video, it’s got to be funny – food is fun!

Are you a breakfast lover yourself? 

When I came to the United States, I learned to love it. Back in Italy, I didn’t really have it a lot. Now I like oatmeal and I like to make things different. Breakfast is something that can really change a lot about your day. We always talk about making the right choices, and something as easy and small as breakfast being done in the right way is huge.

Other than as a standard bowl for breakfast, how do you use Quaker oats? 

It’s a staple for breakfast, absolutely. But I also use oatmeal powder as a thickening agent instead of using gelatin and other chemical-filled things when I work in the kitchen. I make an oatmeal gelato that is delicious.

Healthy eating is clearly a big part of strong heart health. What strategies do you like to follow? 

You’re talking to an Italian guy, so you’re never going to hear me say drop carbs or meat! A balanced diet is the one that makes you happy while keeping you healthy. Being miserable is not healthy; it’s stressful. So I try to balance my diet with a lot of vegetables and good protein, but it’s OK to have steak once a week or so. Fish, in general, is good too. Maybe avoid tilapia because it’s really fatty, but others are great. And risotto – I love risotto! I’ll eat it any day of the week. I mean that, sometimes I’ve done it. And I’ll cook it in red wine instead of broth.

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