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Big Flavour Lite | Episode 03 | Spaghetti & Meatballs

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

A North American classic this dish is falsely hailed as traditional Italian. In a traditional Italian meal pasta may be a part of what is called the primi, or first course. This is generally a light plate and does not contain meat but may contain


Spaghetti and meatballs, as we know today, actually originated in New York city with the first reference to it being in the late 1800’s. Spaghetti and m

eatballs is believed to have been created as a take on the Italian dish chitarra alla teramana. This refers to a handmade egg pasta that is cut on the chitarra and served with a vegetable ragu topped with tiny meatballs.

Structure of a classic Italian meal:

1. Aperitivo: a bubbly beverage served with olives, nuts or cheeses

2. Antipasti: or the “starter” is often a charcuterie platter.

3. Primi: is the first hot course and is generally made up of either; risotto, pasta, gnocchi, soup or lasgna. No meat however seafood may be served here.

4. Secondi: Meat or seafood options

5. Contorini: Vegetable based dishes generally served alongside the secondi

6. Insalata: a salad if there are no leafy greens in the contorini

7. Formaggi Frutta: Cheese and fruit

8. Dolce: Dessert!

9. Caffe: expresso

10. Digestivo: To close out the meal a digestive alcoholic drink such as limoncello or grappa

As you can see pasta is a very small portion of the meal. The emphasis on vegetables and fruit is why the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat. We, westerners do not normally spend 2 hours at the dinner table (though maybe we should) thus what should be a small side has become a full meal. Consisting of mainly protein and carbs this dish lacks balance.

What can we do to make this meal healthier?

Take a page out of the Italian tradition and add a lot more vegetation while reducing the meat and carbohydrates. A perfect way to do this is by creating a vegetable ragu dotted with smaller meatballs or as Adam does in episode 3 of Big Flavour Lite cut the meat with lentils.

Adding extra vegetables to the tomato sauce ensures a wide range of nutrients:

  • Celery: rich in vitamins A, K, C with minerals potassium and folate. It is also a good source of fiber which helps to regulate blood sugar and promote good digestion.

  • Carrots: excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin K1, potassium and antioxidants. Carrots contain particular fibers that impair the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. Thanks to the antioxidant lutein carrots are important for eye health.

  • Red peppers: vitamins A, C, B6 and folate are found in large supply which support the immune system, vision (especially at night) and they are full of the cancer preventing antioxidant lycopene. An added bonus is that red peppers have been shown to activate thermogenesis and increase metabolic rate.

The addition of lentils is so great it needs its own section 😊

Lentils are Heart Healthy!

A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that people who consume more plant based proteins than animal based proteins have a lower chance of dying from all causes of cardiovascular disease. How do lentils fit into this?

  • Lentils are high in fiber and increased fiber intake can help reduce levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol which can slow the progression of disease in high-risk individuals.

  • The specific minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium) in lentils have been found to help naturally lower blood pressure

  • Lentils contain less than 0.1 gram of saturated fats per serving.

This is just a fraction of the health benefits from lentils. Other studies have shown lentils to be important in the fight against cancer, they provide key nutrients for pregnant mothers, promote proper digestion and can even help fight fatigue.

I think it’s time to pick on the salad!

Caesar salad is rumored to have originated during a fourth of July rush at the Caesar Cardini’s Tijuana restaurant in 1924. Cardini stated that the salad was born out of limited supplies and did not contain anchovies, they came much later as the salad was recreated across the states.

The Caesar salad we have come to know is just a bed of lettuce covered in a heavy dressing, delicious, yes! Healthy …no!

Sorry to disappoint! Salad is thought to be the quintessential health food. But in reality the nutritional value comes from variety of vegetables, light heart healthy oils and vinegars.

Adam’s version of the classic Caesar aims to adds extra nutrients by combing the romaine lettuce with spinach and Napa cabbage. His intuition was right on this point. These 3 leafy greens offer up a variety of nutrients with romaine lettuce high in minerals, napa cabbage rich with antioxidants and spinach offering up a load of vitamins. It’s a triple threat; taste, texture and nutrients!

By leaving out the emulsifies in the dressing he reduces cholesterol and other bad-for-you fats. Adam has a great idea to combine croutons and bacon bits into pan roasted pecans. The lightly sweetened smoky nuts compliment the salad perfectly while also providing some healthy fats and satisfying the taste buds.



Here at Big Flavour Lite we believe in supporting local. Whenever possible we use locally source ingredients. At the end of every blog post created for BFL you find this section highlighting the local producers. We have not been paid for these features, we are just passionate about food and the amazing creators within our community.

Mountainoak Cheese is a husband and wife team creating award winning gouda cheese on thier farm in New Hamburg, Ontario. They believe quality cheese begins with happy cows that's why they treat thier cows like family. Learn more here

5 Chicks & a Farmer is a family run farm in McKillop Township in Huron County. John, his wife and four daughters ethically raise poultry and cattle. Find out more here

Seasonal vegetables

are sourced from Gmach Gardens in Wilmot, just on the edge of Kitchener. The Gmach family has been growing vegetables on thier family farm since 1934. You can also find them at the Kitchener farmers market. Learn more here

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