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Lean Fuel For Racing: Joe Bastianitch’s Shellfish Pasta

Running helped the renowned chef turn his life around.

Running helped the renowned chef turn his life around.

When Joe Bastianitch turned 35, he took stock of his life: He was overweight, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, and was fed up with his sleep apnea. When his doctor suggested that losing weight might help cure his ailments, Bastianitch immediately changed his life; he started running and eventually dropped 45 pounds. “It’s a part of my life,” says Bastianitch about running. “I wake up in the morning and I run.”

It wasn’t the first time Bastianitch had reinvented himself. When the 43-year-old New Yorker, who splits his time between Italy and his home in Greenwich, Conn., graduated from college, he spent a year working on Wall Street and hated it. He bought a one-way ticket to Italy and left the rest the chance. He worked in his parents’ restaurant when he was growing up, so he used that experience to get jobs in restaurants and vineyards in Italy. When he decided to return to New York City, he partnered with his mother, renowned Italian chef, television cooking show host and cookbook author Lidia Bastianitch, to open Babbo, one of the city’s landmark Italian restaurants. He also partnered with the Food Network star chef and construction cone orange clogs-clad Mario Batali to grow his restaurant empire and open a wine shop.

Never shying away from a challenge, Bastianitch progressed from racing 10Ks to half-marathons to the marathon. He admits to being overzealous with his training for fear of not finishing. “Once you get over the fact that you can run 26.2 miles, then it becomes more enjoyable and you can focus on other things like time and your objectives,” he says. “It’s always a heady experience to this day to run a marathon.” The post-finish euphoria became addictive and soon Bastianitch was completing three marathons per year. But that much pounding and repetition takes a toll and, to hedge the usage injuries Bastianitch began experiencing from running, he added biking and swimming to the mix and, after a few 70.3s, he completed his first Ironman last year in Kona.

Ironically, Bastianitch says it’s a challenge to eat enough when training for an Ironman. “I’m losing too much weight, so I have to actively eat more calories—more than I naturally would,” he says about Ironman training. “I don’t eat dairy, so if you don’t eat dairy, it’s kind of hard. In retrospect, it’s kind of funny.” As long as he maintains his intense training regimen, Bastianitch says he can eat whatever he wants. One of his favorite ways to fuel is with the scoglio, or fish pasta, that follows.

Look for Bastianitch’s new memoir, “Restaurant Man” in bookstores and online.

Chef Joe Bastianich’s Shellfish Pasta

Pomodoro sauce (recipe below)

4-6 medium-sized scallops

8 medium-sized peeled shrimp

8 mussels

8 clams

½ cup white wine

fresh oregano

fresh thyme

olive oil

1 lb. spaghetti

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a small amount of oil in a sauté pan. Saute scallops on medium heat until golden brown on each side or about one minute per side. Set aside. In the same pan sauté shrimp just until they turn light pink. Remove. Cut off the shrimp heads and set aside the shrimp and return the shrimp heads to the sauté pan. Add 1 cup pasta water. Simmer for 10 minutes to create a fish broth, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release the caramelized bits left over from sautéing. Add fresh springs of oregano and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the broth is ready, add mussels with a little bit of olive oil and cover with a lid. Remove mussels as soon as they open. Set aside. Repeat with the clams. Remove and set aside.

Boil pasta. While it cooks, strain the fish broth through a sieve. Add back to the same pan, adding half a cup of white wine. Simmer over medium heat to burn off the alcohol. Add scallops back to the pan. Then add half a cup of pomodoro sauce. Add shrimp and a little more pomodoro sauce. Two minutes before the pasta is done, remove from boiling water and add to the sauce pan, stirring to coat with pomodoro cause. Add more pomodoro sauce or pasta water if necessary. Simmer until tender. Fold clams and mussels into the pasta.  Serve immediately.

Pomodoro Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 16 oz. can whole Italian tomatoes

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Crush garlic cloves with the heel of your hand. Add to olive oil and sauté until golden brown.

Pour tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze with your hands to break them up. Add tomatoes and their juice to the pan with the garlic. Add salt and pepper and red chili flakes. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, adding water to keep the sauce from becoming too thick. Sauce should be a rich red color; if it turns brick red, it’s too thick.