We asked John Morris – Gabriella’s Kitchen ambassador, Olympic athlete, certified holistic nutritionist and firefighter – to share some insight into how we cooks for large groups. Here’s what he had to say (thanks for the info and recipe, John!):
Cooking for large groups can be intimidating but I’ve learned that if you simplify things then it isn’t as overwhelming as you may think. Most of us know what portion size you would need for two people so essentially I just multiply that by the amount of guys on my crew. I learned early in my career to never be short on food as you’ll never hear the end of it; essentially, it’s like cooking for a bunch of family that all have huge appetites!
When it comes to pasta, my equation is quite simple: 100 grams per person. Although skinnypasta has a very good variety of great pasta, my first choice as an athlete and firefighter is the teff pasta. It is high in protein, which helps us build lean muscle, and it also is an ancient grain that is very easy to digest and doesn’t leave you feeling heavy after a meal like most pasta I used to eat.
I also like to try more unique recipes at the fire hall because the amount of times we’ve had spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna in the past is way too many to count and it’s a boring meal nowadays. I used to think opening a can of tomato sauce and adding a bunch of ground beef was the way make a delicious pasta meal (I can actually remember making this meal on a few first dates in university and I thought I was being gourmet!). Now I like to make my sauces from scratch, which I find adds so much more flavor to the meal.
In order to make sure the meal is well balanced and packed full of a wide variety of nutrients, I like to include some fresh seasonal vegetables. Therefore, I will always add good-quality vegetables like fresh tomatoes, hearty greens like spinach or asparagus, and seasonal mushrooms like shiitake or oyster to boost the flavor even more. This power-packed, nutrient-dense meal is able to fuel us for whatever is thrown at us that day on the fire ground.
Here is one of my favorite pasta recipes that I recently cooked up at our fire hall and is great anytime during the summer when these ingredients are fresh and in season.
Note: this sauce can be made in advance and frozen if time is tight the day of.
– 1 pint fresh sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
– 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 shallots, small diced
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 4 sprigs thyme
– 2lbs fresh mussels
– 3/4 cup dry white wine
– salt and pepper to taste
– big pinch of red chili flakes
– olive oil
– I tbsp finely grated lemon zest
– 28 oz/800g (4 boxes) skinnypasta SUPERFOOD TEFF Penne or Macaroni
Roast tomatoes and mushrooms in oven at 375 degrees with half of garlic, salt and pepper and thyme and 2 tbsp olive oil. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sautee shallots and rest of garlic on medium heat in a saucepan until they begin to color.
Bring mussels and wine to a boil in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the mussels open, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Discard any unopened mussels.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook skinnypasta according to package directions (do not overcook!). Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
Finally, strain the mussel broth through a fine-mesh sieve into the sauteed mixture. Stir in roasted medley with juices and crushed red pepper and simmer over medium heat for one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle about half the sauce over the skinnypasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta evenly among six pasta bowls and spoon the remaining sauce over the mussels. Serve topped with parsley and lemon zest.