Spaghetti has just about everything going for it. It’s fun to eat, it’s cheap and it’s easy to prepare. It’s also not fattening – as long as you don’t drown it in butter or sauce.

To show how you can enjoy spaghetti in the best Italian style – and lose 2.5kg (5lb) in a month at the same time – Edward Giobbi, an artist and an authority on Italian cooking, has planned the diet and added some of his helpful tips on preparing spaghetti and sauces.

Spaghetti Tips

If there is an Italian food store near you, buy some imported spaghetti. It might cost more per kilogram than the local variety but it could be worth it.

One good brand is Barilo, Mr. Giobbi says, but the best, even in Italy, is De Ceceo.

It is made in the mountainous region around Abruzzi – one of the finest wheat areas in the country — and the spring water that flows down the mountains is ideal for making pasta. This is probably, Mr. Giobbi adds, because of the lime and other minerals. Good pasta needs good water.

There is only one way to cook spaghetti: in plenty of rapidly boiling water. Mr. Giobbi is emphatic about this. Here are his easy to follow directions.

  • Allow at least 2½ liters (2½ quarts) of water for every 250g (8oz) of spaghetti.
  • Add spaghetti to boiling water, then add the salt.
  • Do not let the water stop boiling, even for a second. Keep it at a rolling boil the whole time the spaghetti is cooking.
  • Stir often with a long wooden spoon.
  • Keep tasting for doneness – cooking time varies a great deal from brand to brand, pot to pot, altitude to altitude.
  • Drain the spaghetti about 5 seconds before it is completely cooked as it will continue to cook in its own heat. This takes a bit of practice, but you will get better at it each time.
  • Never rinse the spaghetti in cold water unless the recipe specifically says to.

Good spaghetti, such as the Italian varieties mentioned above, is less apt to get overcooked, Mr. Giobbi says. And it is easy to get it al dente (firm to the bite).

Olive Oil Tips

There are certain basics you should know when you are making a sauce, Mr. Giobbi says.

First of all, the olive oil you use can make a lot of difference. Italian Olio Sasso is, in his opinion, the finest all-around oil — it is excellent in sauces and also in salads.

Some sauce recipes call for half butter and half oil.

However, if there is a chance that some of the sauce might be leftover and put into an omelet the next day, Mr. Giobbi suggests using only oil – butter congeals, olive oil doesn’t.

Tomato Sauce Tips

The sweetest tomato sauces, Mr. Giobbi says, are those that cook the shortest amount of time – and his favorite of all is a fresh tomato sauce, for which the recipe is given further on.

It is wrong, he cautions, to let a sauce simmer for hours on end — the longer it cooks, the more acid and bitter the tomatoes become.

The best sauces are made from fresh tomatoes. They don’t have to be skinned or seeded, just cut into coarse chunks and puree in a blender.

Cheese Tips

Just as vital as fine Italian oil and fresh tomatoes is a wedge of Italian cheese – preferably parmesan – that you grate yourself as you need it.

Salad Tips

When you have spaghetti as your main dish, all you need with it is a salad of fresh greens – whatever is in season. Mix various textures. There are plenty to choose from at any time of year. Add onions, cucumbers, green pepper, fennel, celery, radishes. Snip Italian parsley, chives, fresh herbs into the bowl.

Italian salad dressing is a very simple matter. After the greens are washed, well-drained, and tossed into the salad bowl, dribble a little olive oil over the leaves to coat them. Toss. Then add a few drops of red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice – how much of each you put in depends on the amount and kinds of greens, but the proportion is roughly twice as much oil as vinegar or lemon juice. Toss the salad well, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and it is ready to serve.

After spaghetti and salad, just have a piece of fruit or a light fruit dessert and espresso. This is a perfect meal, satisfying and slimming.

Note: Italians do not eat their spaghetti swimming in sauce. Nor do they eat bread with it. If you make a very light sauce and serve it somewhat sparingly, you will find that spaghetti can be an extremely light dish. You will also find it the easiest, most pleasant and cheapest way to take off weight. Buon appetito!

Spaghetti Diet: Menus and Recipes

Recipes are given for each dish marked with an asterisk. Breakfast and weekday lunch are for one person. Dinner and weekend lunch are for two. And each day’s meals come to a total of 1400 calories. Be sure to check with your doctor before going on this, or any other, diet.

Monday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Wedge of melon
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH

    • Vegetable Soup
    • Apple
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti With Fresh Tomatoes*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Oranges In Curacao*
    • Espresso

Tuesday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Half grapefruit
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Chicken and Fennel Soup*
    • Small bunch grapes
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti In Fish Stock With Garlic and Parsley*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Melon With Strawberries*
    • Espresso

Wednesday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Orange
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Egg Drop Soup*
    • Banana
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti With Pesto*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Mandarins In Madeira*
    • Espresso

Thursday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Pear
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Green Pea And Egg Soup*
    • Half grapefruit
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti With Asparagus*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Macedonia Di Frutta*
    • Espresso

Friday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • ⅓ papaw
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Egg Strip Soup*
    • Orange
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti With Walnuts*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Pears In Wine*
    • Espresso

Saturday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Mandarin
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Florentine Bread Soup*
    • Orange
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti With Fish Balls*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Bowl of Fruit (arrange fresh fruit in a shallow bowl and, just before serving, pour cold water over the fruit so it is partially immersed).
    • Espresso

Sunday Menu

  • BREAKFAST
    • Small bunch of grapes
    • Caffe Latte*
  • LUNCH
    • Meatball Soup*
    • Wedge of melon
    • Espresso
  • DINNER
    • Spaghetti in Caponata And Pear Sauce*
    • Salad of tossed greens with 1 tablespoon dressing
    • Strawberries In Wine*
    • Espresso

Caffe Latte

Prepare coffee in an Italian coffee-maker. While coffee is dripping through, heat some milk on the stove – do not use skim milk. When the coffee is ready to pour, combine it with hot milk. A half milk, half coffee mixture, will taste particularly good.

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes

  • 1½ cups fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh basil, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried), olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti

Blend all ingredients except spaghetti in a blender. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain well. Toss with fresh sauce. Serve without the cheese.

Oranges in Curacao

  • 3 navel oranges
  • Grated citrus rind – either lemon or lemon and orange
  • A little sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Curacao

Peel 2 oranges. Remove pith. Slice. Sprinkle lightly with rind and sugar. Squeeze remaining orange. Combine orange and lemon juice. Pour over fruit. Chill. Just before serving, add Curacao.

Chicken and Fennel Soup

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup of rice
  • ½ cup fennel, chopped
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Bring broth to boil, add rice and fennel. Lower heat and cover – but stir occasionally. After 5 minutes, add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until rice is al dente. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Spaghetti in Fish Stock with Garlic and Parsley

  • Fish head
  • 1 carrot, onion, bay leaf
  • Good pinch thyme
  • Few sprigs parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Wash fish head well. Heat 3 liters (3 quarts) water, add carrot, onion, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley sprigs. Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes. Then add fish head and simmer 25 minutes longer. Strain stock, return to saucepan and bring slowly to boil.

When the head cools, remove all edible fish from it – if it is a large head, you will find quite a bit of edible flesh. Set aside. Saute garlic in oil. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in the boiling fish stock. Remove spaghetti a few minutes before done. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the stock.

When garlic begins to brown, add fish flakes, toss, and then add spaghetti – about ½ cup at first and then more as needed, so the sauce remains loose. Serve piping hot, with lots of parsley, without the cheese.

Melon and Strawberries

  • 1 small rockmelon
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • A little sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Brandy

Cut the top off the melon. Scoop out seeds and discard. Scoop out balls of fruit and set aside. Hull and slice strawberries. Sprinkle with a little sugar, moisten with lemon juice. Put melon balls and berries back in melon. Pour liquid over them. Add brandy. Cover with cut-off lid. Chill.

Egg Drop Soup

  • 2½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • A little lemon rind, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few drops of lemon juice

Bring broth to boil and add spinach, in a bowl, combine egg, cheese, rind, salt and pepper. Lower heat under broth and, as soon as it stops boiling, add a well-blended egg mixture. Turn up heat and stir. Add lemon juice. Serve with added cheese.

Spaghetti with Pesto

  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 small potato, cut into small dice
  • A handful of green beans, cut French style
  • 1½ teaspoons butter
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • PESTO
    • 2½ cups basil leaves washed, drained, tightly packed
    • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped fine
    • ¼ cup pine nuts
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Bring 2½ liters (5 cups) water to rolling boil. Add spaghetti, then salt. Add vegetables. Cook until spaghetti is al dente. Drain. Arrange spaghetti and vegetables on a hot platter. Top with butter. Add Pesto. Toss. Serve with cheese on the side.

PESTO: Blend all ingredients in an electric blender, stirring down with rubber spatula if necessary, until a smooth paste forms. Add to spaghetti and vegetables.

Mandarins in Madeira

  • 2 mandarins
  • A little sugar
  • Grated lemon rind
  • Madeira wine

Peel mandarins. Remove pith and seeds and separate them into segments. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Combine with lemon rind and Madeira. Cover. Chill. Serve in wine glasses or chilled dish.

Green Pea and Egg Soup

  • 125g (4oz) green peas, shelled
  • 1½ cups water
  • A little onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A little tomato, chopped
  • Good pinch oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook peas in boiling water until tender. Saute onion in oil, in a small skillet. When onion wilts, add tomato and oregano. Simmer 5 minutes, then add to peas and simmer 10 minutes more. Combine egg, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Gradually add egg mixture to peas, stirring all the time, and simmer for a few more minutes. Serve with added cheese.

Spaghetti with Asparagus

  • ½ x 300g can asparagus cuts
  • 1½ teaspoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato, put through a food mill
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Combine butter and oil in a skillet and saute garlic. When garlic is brown, discard it. Add tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper to skillet. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add drained asparagus and cook 5 minutes longer. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.

Combine egg, yolk and a spoonful of cheese and beat. Drain spaghetti, mix beaten egg and cheese mixture lightly into it. Add tomato sauce and asparagus. Toss. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Macedonia di Frutta

  • 1 small apple
  • Navel orange
  • A little lemon rind, freshly grated
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 very small banana
  • Sugar

Peel and core the apple and cut into chunks. Peel and remove pith from orange and separate into segments. Sprinkle with rind and sugar. Add lemon juice. Gently mix fruit. Chill. Just before serving, add slices of banana.

Egg Trip Soup

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 cups hot chicken broth

Mix egg, cheese, parsley, milk, salt, pepper. Heat butter in a small skillet, add egg mixture, cover and cook over low heat until egg is firm. Remove carefully and drain on a paper towel. When cool, cut into strips about 5cm (2in) long. Cover with hot broth. Add more grated cheese and serve.

Spaghetti with Walnuts

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup tomatoes, chopped and put through a food mill
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh basil (or pinch dried basil)
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Saute garlic in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When garlic turns brown, remove it. Add tomatoes, parsley, and basil. While that is simmering, saute walnuts in remaining oil and butter, in another skillet for about 3 or 4 minutes – or until they stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove nuts and add to the tomato sauce and simmer together 5 minutes longer. Toss with al dente spaghetti. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Pears in Wine

  • 2 pears
  • Red or white wine

Fill 2 wine glasses with slices of peeled pear. Pour wine over. Eat the pears with a fork. Then drink the wine.

Florentine Bread Soup

  • 310g can butter beans
  • ¼ bunch broccoli
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup each chopped carrot, celery, onion
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup tomato, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices hard dark bread
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Drain beans and blend in a blender. Wash broccoli and cut into small pieces. Combine beans and water and bring to boil. Add broccoli. Cover, lower heat and simmer a few minutes. Meanwhile, saute parsley, carrot, celery and onion in olive oil.

When vegetables become limp, add tomato and simmer 5 minutes longer. Add mixture and salt and pepper to beans and broccoli. Simmer 20 minutes longer. Place bread in the bottom of each soup dish. Pour soup over. Serve with grated cheese.

Spaghetti with Fish Balls

  • 250g (8oz) fish fillets 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and strained
  • 2½ tablespoons olive oil
  • Good pinch basil
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti

Chop fish into small pieces. Add half the garlic and half the parsley and blend in a mixing bowl. Add egg, salt, pepper, cheese. When well mixed, shape into small balls about 2.5cm (1 in) in diameter. In a skillet, combine remaining garlic and parsley, tomatoes, oil and basil. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add fish balls and simmer another half hour. Remove fish balls and set in a warm place. Add slightly undercooked spaghetti to the sauce, toss well and cook until done, tossing often. Serve with hot fish balls.

Meatball Soup

  • 185g (6oz) lean minced steak
  • ⅓ cup each breadcrumb, parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 liter (4 cups) water
  • 1 each chopped onion, small carrot
  • 4 sticks celery, washed and chopped finely

In a bowl, mix meat, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Shape into meatballs about 2cm (¾in) in diameter. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat water, onion, carrot and celery. Bring to boil. Cook 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and meatballs. Cook about half an hour. Serve with grated cheese.

Spaghetti in Caponata and Pear Sauce

  • ½ eggplant
  • 2½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each caper, wine vinegar
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
  • A few pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g (8oz) spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Peel eggplant and cut into small cubes. Cook in oil over high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon. In remaining oil, place onions on one side of skillet, celery on the other. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. When celery is tender, add tomatoes. Cover. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.

Add eggplant and mix well. Meanwhile, drain capers, soak in cold water, and blot on a paper towel. In separate pan, heat vinegar and add to eggplant mixture. When the mixture starts to boil, add pear, capers, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Serve over al dente spaghetti with grated cheese.

Strawberries in Wine

  • 1½ cups strawberries
  • A little sugar
  • Red or white wine – or champagne

Hull and slice strawberries. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Chill. Pour into wine glasses. Cover with wine or champagne and serve. Eat berries. Then drink wine.

Note: If you don’t have Italian parsley growing or are unable to buy it, substitute ordinary parsley in the recipes where required.

The works of Edward Giobbi, the artist who supplied these recipes, have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. He is also the author of a recipe book, “Italian Family Cooking” (published by Random House), and some of his recipes are included in “The Great Cooks’ Cookbook” (published by Doubleday).

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