The Zagunis Zest: Spaghetti Con Salsa Di Pomodoro

by Dana on May 18, 2011

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos

Hello and welcome to my second blog post for Words to Sweat by! I am now considering you one of my loyal followers, so thank you and welcome back.

In my first blog post I introduced myself as a world-class fencer, currently training full time towards the 2012 Olympic Games in London. However I did not explain exactly what I meant by ‘full time.’

Currently I live and train in Portland, Oregon, but the 10+ fencing World Cups in which I compete are held in countries all over the world. I have been to tournaments in France, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, China, Vietnam, and El Salvador…just to name a few!

When I tell people about my world travels I often get responses such as, ‘You’re so lucky!’, ‘Where is your favorite place?’, ‘Did you get a chance to check out the such-and-such famous landmark?’. But I must quickly explain to them and also to you, my readers, that the world traveling that I do is NOT what you are picturing it to be! I cannot deny the fact that fencing has provided me with unique opportunities to see the world and befriend amazing people in the process. But don’t glorify my jet-setting lifestyle just yet!

When I travel to these countries for my competitions, the only sights I usually have time to see are whatever I can soak in from the window of the taxi during the drive from the airport to the hotel. The remainder of the time I’m in work mode: 2-3 days spent entirely in the competition venue, usually kicking butt and taking names. Unfortunately I rarely have an opportunity to stick around and sightsee because I have to get home and train for the next one which is usually a week or two later!
All that being said, this does not mean I don’t try to get the most out of each trip. Being a self-declared foodie (one of the reasons I contribute to this blog!) one of the things I try to do on my trips is explore the local flavor. Over the years I have discovered that my like or dislike for any given country I’ve been to closely correlates with how much I enjoy it’s cuisine. So for example places like Italy and Poland rank very high on my ‘favorite places’ list (think pasta and pierogies, yum!) while Algeria is well outside the top 10. Lucky for me, I am competing in Bologna, Italy this month! So I would like to share with you one of my favorite Italian dishes titled Spaghetti con Salsa di Pomodoro that I make all of the time at home. Additionally, here are some helpful travel tips for those of you who are starting to plan your summer destination vacation!

Helpful Travel Tips:

Stay hydrated! Many people don’t realize how much flying can dehydrate you. Travelers are not allowed to bring containers bigger than 3oz of liquids through security, so pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it up after you get through security. If you forget to bring your own, buy a bottle of water before walking to your gate. Drink as much as you can while you wait to board (comfortably, I’m not telling you to chug!) and make sure your bottle is full again before getting on the plane. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, and muscle cramps…these are the last things you want to deal with when you arrive at your destination!

Pack snacks! Let’s face it- airport food courts don’t always provide the best or most healthy food options. Not to mention that a tiny bag of trail mix at a newsstand can run you $5 or more! Save your waste line and a few bucks by bringing your own food with you the day you travel. Unlike water/liquids, food is allowed through security so bring whatever you want! Options include but of course are not limited to: cut up raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, trail mix, sandwiches, granola bars, or even some leftovers in Tupperware if you have room in your carry-on- just don’t forget your spoon or fork!

Eat on schedule! If an in-flight meal is being served, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat it! If you have had time to eat a substantial meal before your flight, there is no need to eat another meal just because it’s put in front of you. This is where bringing your own food and snacks can also come in handy because you have to option of eating what you want, when you want. If you don’t think snacking will cut it, pack your own complete meal. I’ve done this many times, and usually go old school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, pretzel sticks, and raisins. A lot of the time it’s way more appetizing to eat my own food rather than the ‘chicken’ they are serving!

Mariel’s May Recipe: Spaghetti Con Salsa Di Pomodoro

4 T butter
3 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small yellow onion finely chopped
1 can whole plum tomatoes drained and chopped
sea salt & pepper
1 lb spaghetti
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt 4 T of the butter.
  • Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onion has softened and the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, 1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and cook until the sauce begins to bubble.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water and about 2 T salt.
  • Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve about 2 ladles full of cooking water and then drain the pasta.
  • Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce.
  • Stir and toss over low heat until well coated, adjusting the consistency with the cooking water if necessary.
  • Add the basil, toss, then remove from heat, add the cheese, and toss until combined.
  • Eat and enjoy!

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