“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Lighter Side of Italy

When you think of Italian food, visions of gelato, pizza, cheese and pastries dance in your head, right? Well, maybe that’s just me. Seriously, when people think of this food, they think of heavy, cheesy and calorie laden meals. But I have always wanted to change that idea. Italian food can be very healthy; you just have to know how to eat it and how much of it to eat.

When I was in Italy, I didn’t really eat all that differently than I do when I’m at home. My lunches and dinners started with a grilled vegetable plate with zucchini, eggplants and peppers or a beautiful salad with arugula and tomatoes. My mother and I usually shared one pasta, pizza or meat entrĂ©e. 

The thing in Italy is, pasta is not a main course. It is an appetizer. So when it comes to the table, don’t expect a huge bowl filled, if you order ravioli, you’ll probably get four. Pizza is made with a very thin crust, as opposed to all those thick crusts with the extra calories. Plus, all the food that I eat is prepared with natural, wholesome ingredients. Yes, there is cheese, chocolate and bread. But cheese in its purest form, bread, made with ingredients that you can actually pronounce. 

So, I want to share a few of the dishes that I enjoyed while in Italy and I hope it will inspire you to get on board with Healthy Italian La Dolce Vita Lifestyle!!

Spinach with Lemon

1 pound of baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. lemon zest, grated

Start off by rinsing the spinach in cold water. Spin it in a salad clean to ensure that it is mostly dry. In a deep pot, heat olive oil and chopped garlic over medium heat, for around two minutes. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and toss. Cook for around 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Use a slotted spoon to serve spinach and top with freshly grated lemon zest. Buon Appetito!!

Grilled Vegetable Antipasto

3 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into sticks
2 zucchini, cut into sticks
1 large eggplant, cut into sticks
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced

Prepare a grill pan over medium heat. Add your sliced vegetables into a bowl and brush with the olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Begin grilling the vegetables in batches, depending on how big your pan is. All together, it should take around 30 minutes to grill.

Chicory with Lemon

2 heads of chicory (outer ribs discarded and the remainder cut into 2 inch pieces)
¼ cup of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. red pepper
1 tsp. salt
Lemon juice(quanto basta!)

Wash the chicory. Cook in boiling salted water. Stir, until tender for around 5 minutes. Drain.

In another pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook garlic with red pepper, but don’t let it burn! Add the chicory, stirring until most of the liquid had evaporated, for around 4 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of salt and a little lemon juice!!


  1. This will go a long way to break the stereotype of Italian food!

  2. Hi Caroline--Thank you for this! Tonight for dinner I had a salad of Tuscan kale with red pepper olive oil, beans and a little mozzarella--nutritious and light. There's a reason Mediterranean food is known to be so healthy, and I appreciate you wanting to spread the word!

    Marisa Procopio