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During my uni days I lived in Italy for a year.  (This was pre nutritional medicine – I studied two degrees in Arts and Commerce). It was SUCH an insane year – crazy flatmates, over zealous Italian men, and most importantly a year to really immerse myself completely in their food and maybe a bit of red wine too.

On an occasion at a dinner with a friend’s family, cooking of course came up and we were chatting all things ingredients. I have this distinct memory on the discussion of olive oil and how it is a fat, the mum turning to me a little shocked at my very factual statement and saying simply, “tesoro (treasure), olive oil is not a fat…olive oil is olive oil!”

And you know what, it’s kind of true. Olive oil could just sit in a food group of it’s own because it is one of the world’s healthiest foods and so different to the other oils or fats in it’s food category. This is why the Mediterranean diet has long been considered one of the healthiest diets in the world too.

You’ll see in this recipe, I’ve used olive oil… liberally…the good stuff, extra virgin olive oil. And I have a few reasons. One is that I am a true believer in olive oil and it’s nutritious qualities. If cooking with olive oil, use it on low to medium heat only to retain the nutrients and because these lower heats do not have the oxidising effects on fats as the higher heats do.

Two, whilst yes olive oil deserves a food group of it’s own, we do know it to be a fat and so in this recipe, being 100% plant based, the fats serve a great purpose. And that is, where there may have been (animal based) protein to balance the glycaemic load on the meal (from the high carbohydrate content) and improve satiety, there is olive oil as a healthful substitute to do so. This doesn’t mean we drink it, but certainly in meals that we are focusing entirely on plants we need to look at what ingredients will improve the way the body utilises nutrients and releases energy, and of course what teams well with the dish. Which brings me to my next point…

Three – the flavour of olive oil with good quality, local, seasonal vegetables and a yummy wholesome pasta is really a no brainer. You can do all the fancy sauces in the world with a pasta, but honestly if you have a great olive oil in your kitchen, you can make something basic, taste so wonderfully rich and delicious, without having to include rich or complicated ingredients or cooking methods – that’s a win right?

So, I encourage you on your next pasta mission, be it this pasta or another to give it a good hit of quality extra virgin olive oil and note the difference in flavour and the experience of the meal too. Who knows, maybe with the extra olive oil you won’t find yourself digging in for more of the pasta, you could eat a smaller portion and feel equally or more satisfied. Worth a shot right? Over to you…



Serves 4

250g sorghum or brown rice pasta

1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 brown onion, peeled and diced

1 head broccoli, stalk and florets finely chopped

1 zucchini (150g), grated

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or 1/2 cup pecorino (if non-vegan)

sea salt and black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add pasta and good pinch of sea salt and cook according to pack instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup water in the saucepan. Whilst water is boiling / pasta cooking, start cooking the winter greens mix. Heat a large frypan on low to medium heat, add olive oil to warm gently then add garlic and onion. Saute 3-4 minutes, or until translucent. Add broccoli stalks and florets and zucchini and cook about 6-7 minutes before adding olives, nutritional yeast and peas to cook a further 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and toss pasta through the pan with vegetables to heat it all together. You can add fresh herbs, rocket or baby spinach should you wish, however the flavour of the olive oil and greens is so delicious as is.

Jacqueline Alwill

Jacqueline Alwill is a qualified, practicing nutritionist, personal trainer, whole foods cook and most importantly mother to Jet. She is committed to improving the health, wellbeing and happiness of all individuals.

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