The perfect prescription

Penne with squash

Angelo Acquista, M.D. is board certified physician and a clinical instructor in medicine at Northshore-LIJ University Hospital in Manhattan. He grew up eating in his native Sicily and this culinary background, coupled with his desire to help his patients improve their health, spurred Dr. Acquista to "prescribe" recipes to his patients for nutritious and flavorful home-cooked meals highlighting ingredients from his native cuisine. His first cookbook, The Mediterranean Prescription, was published in 2006.

Dr. Acquista returns with a new book, The Mediterranean Family Table, which outlines the guiding principles of the Mediterranean diet. ( Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book.) In addition to the many recipes, The Mediterranean Family Table contains sidebars that teach you how to make healthier eating choices; instill good habits in kids that will last a lifetime; and buy, store, and cook ingredients key to the Mediterranean diet. Woven throughout are anecdotes from Acquista's family history, going back several generations on the Mediterranean Sea. He also relates how he has learned to incorporate this way of life into today's busy schedules.

To give you a flavor of what's inside his new cookbook, Dr. Acquista has provided us with three recipe excerpts from the book: Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash (pictured top), and Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce. This is the kind of medicine that goes down easy.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Nix the butter-and-cream-loaded mashed potatoes and give this recipe a try. It's a great, versatile, go-to side, and it doesn't take any more time than the less nutritious version. I like to leave the potato skins on, because you get more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber that way. You can also prepare this dish with sweet potatoes to up the vitamin and mineral content even more.

Serves 6

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, if desired, and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon salt
10 cloves garlic, peeled (use less-to taste-if for young children)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon black pepper 

  1. Place the potatoes, salt, and garlic in a large pot with enough water to cover. Place it over high heat and bring it to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, approximately 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the garlic and potatoes, reserving approximately 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  3. Add the potatoes and garlic back to the pot and mash, adding the reserved water until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. Add the oil and pepper slowly while vigorously stirring. Serve hot.

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Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, optional
1 pound penne pasta
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
  2. Toss the squash cubes in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt (if using) and mix well. Spread onto a baking pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes until soft. Increase the oven temperature to broil and broil the squash for 2 minutes more.
  3. When the squash is almost done, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt (if using) and the penne and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve ¹∕³ cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  4. Place half of the squash into a blender along with the reserved pasta water and puree until it is smooth. It should have the consistency of tomato sauce.
  5. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the onion and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt (if using) and cook until the onion is softened.
  6. Add the squash puree and roasted squash cubes to the onion, and sauté for 1 minute.
  7. Stir in the drained pasta, and remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Stir in the Parmigiano, parsley, and pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil.

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Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce

This is my wife's new favorite tomato sauce-she loves the taste. Its success depends entirely on the type of tomatoes you use (as I've mentioned, I highly recommend DOP San Marzano tomatoes) and on blending the garlic well into the sauce.

Serves 4 (enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta) 

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano whole peeled plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

  1. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and coarsely squish them with your hands, reserving the juice.
  2. Put the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and garlic. Sauté the garlic for 1 minute and add the tomatoes with their juices, 2 tablespoons of the chopped basil, the salt, and the sugar.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. The cooked garlic blends into the sauce and gives it a wonderful flavor.
  5. Add the last tablespoon of basil when you mix the sauce with the pasta.

1 Comment

  • carollf  on  1/22/2016 at 3:01 AM

    Looking forward to trying the tomato sauce recipe, sounds great thanks.

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