Back when I ran cross country in middle and high school, our coaches often took the team out to the Spaghetti Factory or some such place for a bit of carbohydrate loading the night before a race. Now that my own son is running cross country, I want to do everything I can to help him perform his best in practice and at meets, so I looked into the idea of carb loading to see if the piles of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs that we used to down like starving street waifs are actually a good idea anymore.
The answer? Yes, and no. While research into running performance and nutrition shows that carb loading the night before a race absolutely can help you to run better, it also shows that eating too much protein, fiber and fat in the same meal can actually slow a runner down. New research suggests that modern carb loading, especially for younger athletes, should be focused on whole grain pastas, veggies, small amounts of protein, and a little bit of good fat (unsaturated).
With this in mind, I set out yesterday to come up with a healthy, delicious pasta dish my son might like, that met all his needs the night before a race (he races later today). I wanted something hearty yet light, savory, and fresh-tasting, and to me those things almost always happen in dishes from the Provence region of France. I put together a provencale sauce with artichoke hearts in the place of the usual olives, added some organic whole wheat chiocciole pasta, and voila! A power-packed pre-race one-pot dinner that my son absolutely loved. “You should put this recipe on the blog, mom,” he said as he headed back for seconds. Then thirds. “It’s that good.”
For the moms out there, I noticed a distinct glow to my skin the morning after I ate this dish. I think it’s all the veggies, garlic and olive oil. (We also both drank about two glasses of iced water with the meal, in an effort to get my boy super hydrated for the race, but if you were to serve this in adult company I’d recommend a nice dry rosé, a type of wine made only in Southeastern France.)
So, here it is. Alexander’s Pre-Race Power Pasta Provencale. Bon apetite!
- 9 oz. dried organic whole wheat chiocciole pasta (bionaturae makes a great one, at Whole Foods, but any hearty medium-sized pasta will do)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (divided)
- 4 organic Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
- 10 medium fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 6 oz package artichoke hearts (I like Monterey Farms brand, at Whole Foods, packaged in lemon juice and garlic), finely chopped
- 13.4 oz box or can of organic garbanzo beans
- 1 cup reserve liquid from cooking the pasta
- 1 cube of chicken bouillon
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves, chopped, for garnish
- parmesan cheese, finely grated
Bring 4 quarts of water to a full boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta and stir so it doesn’t stick. Cook about 11 minutes, or until “al dente”. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid. Set aside.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large sautee pan, over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic and artichoke hearts. Sautee, stirring frequently, until fragrant and melding together, about 6 minutes. Add the garbanzo beans and the liquid from the pasta, stir together another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the bouillon, stir until it dissolves completely. Add the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, stir to blend sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer another 5 minutes, then add the sauce to the pasta in the large pot. Toss together.
Spoon the pasta onto plates, top with chopped fresh basil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Serve hot.