Pasta portions — the companies that sell it and Strega Nona disagree

When my children were young, I would read them the adventures of a character called Strega Nona. I loved the book because Strega Nona is Italian, the book was written by an Italian, and I hoped it would give my children a sense of their Italian side. It also had a goofy character named Big Anthony who remind me of my cousin Anthony, so it worked in so many ways.

Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.
Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.

Strega Nona had a magic pasta pot that could make as much pasta as she directed it, what Italian boy wouldn’t want one of those?

Pasta, which we actually called macaroni in my Italian-American home in Brooklyn, was a ubiquitous part of our weekly menu. It was always part of Sunday dinner and probably served at least one weekday every week as well.

Since my heart surgery in 2012, I’ve been told by nutritionists to stop eating regular pasta altogether and switch to whole grain and multigrain varieties. that’s meant almost no pasta at Italian restaurants anymore since so few offer whole grain varieties. So when I make the multigrain type at home, I tend to eat a lot of it, just like I did as a kid.

A box of Barilla whole grain penne says a portion size is two ounces, or 56 grams, of dry pasta. I can usually eat half a box which is 6.5 ounces,so I decided to measure out two ounces recently on my food scale to see how much it was.

Adjusting the scale to zero with a measuring cup on it, I started adding pasta. Two ounces didn’t even fill a one-cup container, so I ended up with four ounces on the scale, filling the cup and putting the rest on the scale itself.

Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.
Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.

I cooked that up and put it on my plate. What had been 4 ounces dry filled the plate, barely, but it did not really fill me. It left me wishing Strega Nona’s pasta pot was somewhere nearby.

John

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