Man in the kitchen: Pasta for marathon man

By Simon Round, November 11, 2013

As someone who writes about and cooks food, I naturally spend a lot of time eating. I realised some time ago that this was beginning to have consequences for my waistline. Being a man, I decided that Weightwatchers and low fat food was not the answer — I could not see myself eating yogurts, cottage cheese and crispbreads all day.

Instead, I decided to run marathons. This plan worked well. I would go on a 20-mile run at the weekend, shower and have a massive, guilt-free bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. However, there was a downside. Running 20 miles takes a lot of energy. And if you have two toddlers to look after, energy is the one thing you need.

I reduced the running for some years and the weight started creeping up again. What I needed was a man diet. So I scanned the bookshelves for a suitably masculine regime. I came across the paleo, or caveman diet, the theory of which is that to keep healthy, you eat foods our ancestors ate thousands of years ago — those you can hunt or forage. Apparently, the high carbohydrate foods which became available with the advent of agriculture, like wheat, rice and other grains, stimulate the hormone insulin to store any excess as fat. Paradoxically, it seems that fat itself does not make you fat, but too much challah most definitely will.

I cut out sugar, white flour, rice, cornflakes and chips and gorged on steak, nuts and vegetables instead. I lost weight and felt healthy. But I missed pasta, rice and chips. However, the good news was that in the intervening years my children grew up quite a bit. So I have started the marathon training and pasta eating again. And here is a perfect quick post-session pasta meal.

First, run at least six miles, then take a handful of cavolo nero (or curly kale) and boil it in salted water for 10 minutes with two cloves of garlic. Drain, then strip off the leafy part from the woody stalk (which you discard) and chop the cavolo nero as finely as possible with a very sharp knife. Mash the cooked garlic, add to the cavolo nero, place both in a bowl and then add a good handful of freshly grated parmesan, some salt and a generous glug of olive oil. Mix until you have a kind of pesto consistency. Meanwhile, cook a huge amount of your favourite pasta — I tend to go for pappardelle — and mix thoroughly. I find it goes particularly well with a refreshing glass of Gatorade.

Last updated: 3:07pm, November 11 2013