Whether you’re participating, supporting or spectating, this season of sport is sure to be matched with camaraderie and celebration.
With so many incredibly fit and healthy sporting heroes taking centre stage, it does tend to have us all thinking about what we eat ourselves. Although most of us will be spectators of this year's Olympics, summer is the perfect time to get active and make the most of the brighter nights and (usually) fairer weather. Many of us enjoy lighter meals in summer but it's worth thinking about dishes that still deliver the energy you need to make the most of the season ahead.
One of the best ways to fuel fitness is to eat a wide variety of fresh, seasonal produce, so you know you’re getting as many different nutrients as possible. Many people taking part in sporting events such as marathons recommend loading up on carbohydrates three to four days before the big event. Pasta is sometimes known as a runner’s fuel, as it offers a great source of energy, but it is best avoided the night before a race.
Adding pasta to your diet can give you a boost whether you're just tackling a busy day, running a race or going to the gym. We often serve it to the staff ahead of a busy service at the restaurant, knowing it will keep them going through a full lunch or dinner service, when they can be on their feet for a long time. It’s also a cost-effective and easy meal to make, and can offer a blank canvas for a huge range of different dishes.
Pasta tends to get a fairly hard time for being heavy and hearty, but it's actually a great option and doesn't have to be packed full of cream, cheese or meat. It’s a great alternative to unhealthy takeaways on nights when you’re getting together to watch any of the big sporting events coming up over summer, as it’s quick and easy, yet can be really fresh and healthy.
You can also boost the healthy properties of your pasta by teaming it with some delicious seasonal vegetables. Choose a rainbow of colours for maximum health benefits, and you'll also ensure your dish looks incredibly appetising and appealing as well.
We're getting much more savvy about our pastas here in the UK, trying different shapes with different sauces. Not only that, you can find wholewheat and gluten-free pasta nowadays, meaning there’s usually an option for most dietary requirements. But making your own still seems to be daunting to many, even though it is much simpler than you might think.
You can invest in a good pasta-making machine, which could actually save you money in the long run. With a little practice, you will find you can make truly tasty pasta that is often better than the versions you would find ready-made in the supermarket.
You actually only need a few simple ingredients to make pasta: flour, olive oil, eggs and salt. Try to get your hands on some 00 flour, as the fine texture gives it a silky taste. In Italy, it's called farina di grano tenero, which means tender or soft flour. You can find 00 flour in most good delis.
Pasta-making is great for getting children involved over weekends or during the summer holidays too. They always love making a mess with the flour and dough, and they take great enjoyment in working the dough into the right consistency and shape.
When you’re making the dough for pasta, I recommend you use higher quantities than you might need, as this gives you the right consistency and size to make the kneading process successful. If you do have some leftover, keep it and add a different sauce to it for lunch or dinner the following day.
There’s no real method to kneading the dough, but you do have to work quite hard for around ten minutes – squashing, reshaping, pulling and stretching it until you achieve the right consistency. Often making fresh pasta can feel like a workout for your arms in itself – and the ideal way to work up an appetite. The secret is also in making sure you rest the dough for long enough before you roll it.
Making your own pasta means you can add any fresh herbs, spices or flavours you want to the dough, and create any shapes or sizes you like. Then adding sauces or seasonal ingredients is entirely up to you, as pasta offers a perfect blank canvas for you to create a meal in order to suit your own tastes or moods. It’s an ideal dish both for you and for your dinner guests, whether you're getting together to watch this year's Olympics or – even better – getting fit yourselves.
If you want to increase your pasta know-how, try having fun with these different pasta shapes and types; linguine, spaghetti and tagliatelle are some of the best to try if you’re making your own pasta at home.
Home-made fresh egg pasta
Serves four to six
5 medium eggs
dash extra-virgin olive oil
500g pasta flour (00 type)
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk, then add a dash of olive oil and continue to whisk.
Place the flour in a separate bowl and place it on top of a wet towel on the table – this will stop it from rocking as you work the dough.
Add the eggs to the flour slowly, bit by bit, incorporating the two ingredients together with your hands.
Each time you add a little bit of egg, make sure you take your time to really work it into the flour, using your hands and fingers to create the right consistency of dough.
Each recipe will differ slightly, depending on the size of the eggs, so use your own judgment – if the dough seems too dry, add some more eggs, but if it feels wetter, you don’t need to add all the eggs.
Once everything has come together and you’re happy with the consistency, take the dough out of the bowl and place it on the table and start kneading again for about two minutes. You’ll know when to stop – when your pasta dough starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for half an hour.
½ head of broccoli florets, blanched
1 chilli, sliced
1 tbsp broad beans
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped peanuts
1 tbsp raisins
1 tsp capers
Set your pasta machine up and make sure it’s secured firmly to a clean work surface or table.
Add a touch of salt to a pan of water and pout it on the hob to boil on to boil, ready to blanch the pasta.
I recommend that you cut the pasta in half to make it easier to work with. Dust your work surface with some 00 flour, then take a share of the pasta dough and press it out flat with your fingertips, until you achieve roughly the width of the pasta machine.
Set the pasta machine to the widest setting and feed the dough through the machine a couple of times.
Take the machine down one setting at a time, dusting the pasta lightly with flour each time, before running it through the machine again – until you get to about 1½ on the machine setting. It should begin to feel as smooth as silk
When you get to 1½, attach the tagliatelle fitting. If your pasta is too long, it’s difficult to work with – it’s a good idea to cut it in half and then work it through the machine.
Put the sheet through the tagliatelle setting, then flour immediately and repeat the process with your second piece of pasta. Blanch in the boiling water for about a minute, then remove, drain and add some more olive oil and seasoning.
Add the blanched broccoli, sliced chilli, broad beans, coriander, peanuts, raisins and capers to the pasta and mix until warmed through before serving.
Linguine is often confused with spaghetti. It should, however, be wider, between 6mm and 9mm, and flatter. Spaghetti is traditionally served with meat and tomato dishes, but linguine is more suited to seafood and pesto, because the pasta is flatter, meaning thin sauces stay on the noodles better.
Spaghetti is a long, fine, round pasta, best enjoyed with meat sauces and known as the perfect match for a bolognese sauce.
Tagliatelle has a rougher, more porous texture than other ‘spaghetti’ pastas, making it ideal for thicker sauces. Classically, tagliatelle should be served with a meat sauce, but you can also team the meat with fresh seasonal vegetables for maximum taste and nutrition.
Penne is a tube-shaped pasta, traditionally served in two different ways – penne lisce (smooth) or penne rigate (furrowed). It is an extremely versatile pasta because of its shape, and it holds sauce well.
Rigatoni is also a tube-shaped pasta, however it tends to vary in length and diameter compared to penne. The tube shape is larger than penne and the tube end is square-cut, not diagonal, like penne. Rigatoni is also ridged.