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10K penne

Long-distance running brings many joys. Among them are the chance to get outside and enjoy nature, the surge of endorphins known as runner’s high and the excuse to eat a lot of pasta. 

I speak from experience, as a person who ran over six miles, several times back in the 80s. Since it was a long time ago, I can’t really remember the endorphins, but I do recall that mythical binge known as carbo-loading.

Carbo-loading refers to the practice of eating glycogen-rich foods like pasta the day before an endurance event. Glycogen, which is stored glucose, improves performance by providing reserves for the liver and muscles to draw on during an endurance event like a long run or a day-long hike.

This pasta recipe has all the satisfying flavor of a meat sauce, but uses only a few ounces of pancetta. It only takes about 45 minutes to make it, leaving you plenty of time to digest and get a good night’s sleep before the big event.

10K Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Olives and Pancetta

Makes four 6-ounce servings

1.5 pounds plum tomatoes

1/4 to 1/2 cup tomato juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

5 oz. (1 cup) diced pancetta

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 cup green olives crushed, pits removed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup red wine

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 pound penne

1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Split the tomatoes and place them cut-side down in an oiled baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Add enough tomato juice to the natural juices so the tomatoes sit in about 1/4 inch of liquid and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil over the tomatoes. Roast for 40 minutes until the tomatoes are browned, and the juices are bubbling. Let the tomatoes cool slightly and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, coarsely chop the cooked tomatoes. Set aside.

While the tomatoes are cooking, cook the pancetta in a 14-inch skillet, over low heat for about 15 minutes, until browned. Add a teaspoon of the olive oil to the pan, add the garlic and cook slowly until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Add the olives to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes over low heat.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the wine to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the penne according to the time on the package and drain, setting aside about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta, cheese and parsley to the sauce in the skillet. Stir the pasta until the cheese is blended and the sauce coats the penne. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of the hot pasta water. Taste and add salt as necessary.

For day-of-race nutrition, this smoothie, made with fresh strawberries, peaches — and that milder relative of mint — basil, makes a great breakfast, or after-race recovery drink.

Strawberry Basil smoothie
Strawberry, Peach and Basil smoothie

Strawberry, Peach and Basil Smoothie

Makes four 6-ounce servings

1/2 pound strawberries, (about 12 medium) with stems trimmed off

2 small fresh peaches, sliced off the pit, with skin

1/3 cup plain, unsweetened non-fat yogurt

1/4 cup orange juice

10 basil leaves washed and torn

2-4 tablespoons honey (amount depends on the sweetness of the fruit)

3 cups ice cubes

Combine the strawberries, peaches, yogurt, orange juice, basil leaves and 2 tablespoons of the honey in a blender and purée until smooth. Taste for sweetness and add additional honey if needed. Add the ice cubes and purée to a milkshake consistency. Serve with a straw or long spoon.