A Chef, a Diet, and Pasta

First of all I have to say it is a curse to be a chef with a weight problem. My brain thinks food and how to create it 24/7. Then I discovered Pinterest where I pin pictures of food all the time. Thanks to The Daily Basics, my boards are flying and I am loving it. But man oh man,  those beautiful pictures make me want to create more recipes and they make me hungry.

 My Version of Pasta Puntanesca

My Version of Pasta Puntanesca

I have had a struggle keeping my weight down my entire life. I have cholesterol issues and heart disease in my family. I am already fighting the cholesterol battle and doing pretty well at handling it. I am grateful to know food as well as I do, and how to make healthier choices, but sometimes I just gotta eat and I do. I quit beating myself up for doing that -  that’s half the battle. It’s a day,  it’s not a month or a year and you can flip the switch back on to get back on track. I realize I’ll never be thin again but at 55 my goal is to keep those 20 pounds off that I  gain so easily when I am not paying attention. I can’t sit and watch the scale and cholesterol go right up, I just have to eat right and move a little more.

Keeping it off

Last August I reconnected with a dear old friend at our high school reunion, Paula Cannon Wiseman. She is a fitness coach and a trainer and works specifically with woman to get healthy, not necessarily skinny. She came for a visit and we drank wine, told old stories and talked like girls talk with a few good laughs. She inspired me and after she left, I got back on the stick and have lost 9 pounds in 3 weeks.  I know I can do it and not kill myself because I have done it off and on for years. It is stopping the yoyo-ing that is the tough part.  To combat that, I have pledged to make better choices 85% of the time in order to maintain my weight when I get this blasted 20 off again.  Sometimes we all just need a little support and I am grateful to have my own personal cheerleader in Paula at the other end of the phone. Did I mention she was a cheerleader in high school? Well she is a dam good one, then and now. So this post is dedicated to my buddy Paula Cannon Wiseman for being a wonderful friend and the amazing cheerleader. I love and appreciate you being back in my life now to stay.  If you can find a friend for support or perhaps a dieting buddy, it would make your dieting experience so much easier.

Where Pasta Puttenesca Got it's Name

How ‘puttenesca’ or  ‘The Whore’s Pasta’ got its name is varied.  According to Food Reference.com. “Three accounts all hinge on the fact that Puttanesca sauce is easy and quick to make. The first is that the prostitutes made it for themselves to keep the interruption of their business to a minimum. The second is that they made it for the men awaiting their turn at the brothel. And the final version is that it was a favorite of married women who wished to limit their time in the kitchen so that they may visit their paramour.”

Pasta Puttanesca

The origin of this dish is from Southern Italy (Siracusa) and literally means spaghetti a la whore.  Being a Chef I need lots of flavor and the least amount of calories. So I take an old dish and update the recipe without loosing the flavor that makes this dish authentic. There are different versions of this sauce all over Italy which almost always include anchovies, capers and olives, topped with fresh parsley. This dish has great history in Italy and I love that about it.


  • 1 Pound of fresh cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3 tbsp of a good extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 3 or more anchovy fillets, minced,as many to your taste
  • 1 28-ounce can of diced plum tomatoes, imported from Italy SanMazzanno (I usually use fresh tomatoes if I can find organic good ones)
  • ¼ pound of pancetta, ( I use turkey bacon you still get the flavor)
  • 1/4 cup pitted calamata olives, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pitted Sicilian green olives, rough chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, salt preserved ones, rinse salt off very well
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta high protein pasta, your favorite
  • chopped fresh basil and parsley for garnish on top
  • Riccota Salata cheese for grating on top


1. Steam the chopped cauliflower using a mesh steamer and set aside, leave a little bit of a crunch, its going to continue to cook in sauce.

2. In a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil, fry the pancetta or the turkey bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside

3. In the same skillet that you fried the pancetta, add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the anchovy fillets and using a wooden spoon break them up until they melt into a paste. Add the cauliflower, capers, bacon, and olives to the mix. Toss thoroughly so all the flavors mix.

4. Add diced tomatoes (with tomato liquid) to the pan, Salt and Pepper to taste at this point. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down. this takes about 5 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and the torn basil leaves, and continue to simmer about 3 minutes more

5. Bring pot of water to boil, salt it. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until pasta is el dente. Drain quickly and toss with sauce. Grate the Riccota Salata over the top, garnish with
parsley and basil leaves and serve. ( Be especially careful preparing this dish with the added salt. You have capers, olives and Ricotta Salata cheese. All have salt levels already.)

There is so much flavor in one dish which makes it especially satisfying. I removed most of the fat and cut back on the olives and it still has plenty of the flavor of the original. I have also added some toasted pine nuts chopped into the parsley from time to time when I have them. Please comment and inspire me to create more healthy dishes like this one.

Posted on March 8, 2014 and filed under dinner menus, diet.