On this frigid Sunday afternoon, I’m grateful to be inside, where a fire is crackling in the fireplace and pasta sauce is simmering on the stove, an aroma I have associated with Sundays all of my life.
When I was growing up, as my dad watched the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoons and we wandered around waiting for dinner, invariably someone would dip a spoon into the bubbling sauce and spread it on a slice of crusty Italian bread. Heaven.
When I met my husband, one of the first things we found we had in common was that our families both had pasta every Sunday and Thursday. With our family history as Italian Americans, pasta—and many other traditional foods—play an important role in our lives. After my husband had his heart attack 15 years ago, we knew we needed to make some changes in what we ate, but we didn’t want to give up delicious food.
Fortunately, as I have shared in this blog, we found many ways to adapt our favorite recipes and discovered new dishes.
We still eat pasta every Sunday, although we dropped Thursday pasta. I used to make a heavier sauce with pork, meatballs and Italian sausage, but I now rely on leaner meatballs, made with 96% lean ground beef and/or turkey, and turkey sausage. Or we may have pasta with chicken, clams or crab meat. Also, we often have pasta with vegetables rather than a traditional tomato sauce.
To boost our whole grain intake, we sometimes have white wheat or whole wheat pasta and we are experimenting with other types of pasta. Spiralized vegetable “noodles” also stand in for pasta in some dishes, such as this bruschetta chicken with zucchini noodles by culinary scientist and blogger Jessica Gavin, which I made last summer.
A heart attack can change your perspective on so many things, but it also prompts you to take a closer look at the food you enjoy. It’s comforting to continue our traditions with a healthier spin.