Puglia Pasta with Chickpeas, serves 6

  • 1-pound fresh whole-wheat pasta (or 3/4-pound dried), preferably tagliatelle
  • 2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 large tomato, cored and diced
  • 1/4-cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • Extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight in the fridge. The next day, drain the water from chickpeas. Place chickpeas in a large saucepan with the vegetables and parsley and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the water is absorbed and beans are tender. Meanwhile boil the fresh pasta for 1 to 3 minutes and drain quickly making sure it is al dente. Place pasta in serving dish, and mix with chickpeas and vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Optional: Serve with grated Pecorino cheese and red pepper flakes.

Note: If you prefer a thick sauce, you can puree half of the cooked chickpeas and veggies. Then add the puree back to the whole chickpea-veggie mixture.

Nutrition facts per serving without added salt (200 grams): 490 calories, 8 grams fat (less than 1 gram of saturated fat), 69 mg sodium, 975 mg potassium, 87 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams dietary fiber, 20.6 grams protein, 45 percent daily value vitamin A, 11 percent daily value calcium, 21 percent daily value vitamin C, 35 percent daily value iron.

The region of Puglia in southern Italy, is known as the birthplace of pasta. Locally grown foods, seafood, wheat, fresh dairy, olive oil and wine make this coastal region the ideal place to go Beyond the Mediterranean Diet. That’s why I chose this location to co-lead a cultural and culinary tour for nutrition and health professionals, foodies and friends who want to have a hands-on Italian Mediterranean experience like none other in the world! If you like to travel and want to learn about pasta-making, bread-making, olive-oil harvesting and more from renowned experts of the region, join Southern Visions Travel and me in Puglia, Italy this fall 2017. This trip offers over 25 continuing education credits from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For further information and details visit: www.WorldRD.com/travel.

If you maintain an active and healthy lifestyle and eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, you too can eat like an Italian and never give up pizza, pasta and cheese. Keep in mind that quantity and quality of ingredients matter. How you choose and cook your ingredients also matters. If you have celiac disease or have been diagnosed with other chronic illnesses, please seek the advice of a registered dietitian before embarking on a different way of eating. To learn more about the dietary secrets of the Italians (and other countries with the best health stats in Europe), pick up a copy of my award-winning lifestyle and cookbook Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets Of The Super-Healthy, available for purchase on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com.