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Aug 8, 2006 12:48 PM

Whole Wheat pasta?

I'd like to try this but haven't yet & would like some input. What's the flavor like? The texture? Which shapes are best in this iteration? Does it emerge from the cooking al dente? Any special cooking tips? What kind of sauces go best?
I appreciate any & all advice!

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  1. Marian Burros of the NY Times did a whole study of whole wheat pastas, which she recently reprised on the NPR show The Splendid Table - see She tast-tested several common brands.

    When I eat pasta it's almost exclusively whole wheat - I usually use the 365 house brand from Whole Foods, but since it's expensive I'll try whatever is on sale. It does taste different than pasta made with white flour - sort of like the difference between white bread and health nut bread. Personally, I like it, but it may take some getting used to if you eat white pasta often. Whole wheat pasta is better with a robust sauce, like a bolognese or (my favorite) puttanesca.I wouldn't want it with a simple garlic and olive oil. For a super-healthy filling dish, I'll add Morningside Farms soy "italian sausage" crumbles to my tomato sauce and whole wheat pasta. (Tastes better than it sounds). If you want something that tastes as close to regular pasta, then the thin pastas (spaghetti/fettucine etc.) are less "wheat-y" than penne.

    1. I find the flavour of whole-wheat pasta to be slightly nutty, and the brand I buy, Catelli (not sure if you have that in the U.S.), is extruded fairly thick, so it is pretty al dente. If you enjoy adding a bit of the cooking water to your sauces, be warned that I find that whole wheat pasta water doesn't get as starchy.

      I enjoy the tubey/twirly shapes since I find it all sort of rustic anyhow. I second dubedo--whole wheat pasta is best with a robust sauce, not a delicate one.

      Another whole grain option you might want to consider is brown rice pasta. Most health food stores carry it, and it seems to be milled finer so the fibre isn't as apparent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Olivia

        There's a good reason the fiber isn't apparent in brown rice pasta. I bought some lately at Whole Foods and didn't read the label till I got it home. It had exactly the same amount of fiber as regular white pasta. It actually didn't taste half bad, but what is the point nutritionally? Is it just meant for people who can't eat wheat due to allergies and such?

      2. We've tried a couple of whole wheat pastas, Whole Foods' 365 house brand and one that Marion Burros mentioned (can't recall the name now). The texture is the biggest diffence between semolina and ww pastas which don't have the same level of gluten. They tend to be more dense but also less chewy. You have to be careful when cooking, it goes from being al dente to mushy very quickly, and the cooking time is shorter by a couple of minutes from semolina pasta.

        The flavor is fine, slightly nutty but not very noticeable if you're eating the pasta with a sauce.

        Semolina is almost whole grain, so we're happy eating it. We eat a lot of whole grain salads (bulgur, couscous, farro, wheat berry) which are delicious in hot weather and healthy.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cheryl_h

          I had thought semolina *was* whole grain for some reason. Does anyone know off hand what part has been removed?


          1. re: bruce

            My DH also thought so which is why I looked it up. Semolina is made from durum flour but the bran and germ are removed. It's not processed much beyond this. To be a whole grain, it must be labelled "whole grain durum". I assume some of the whole wheat pastas are made of this, but you'd have to check the label.

            This is from a website I found which gives some FDA definitions:

            1. re: cheryl_h

              Now that rings a bell. Thanks. Also, thanks for that useful site!


        2. I like the Barilla Plus brand; it isn't just whole wheat, but includes some legume flours as well (lentil, chickpea, or something like that). It's high-protein compared to wheat-only, and I think it has a better texture/flavor than the whole wheat pastas I've tried.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Agree completely. Barilla Plus is much closer in texture to traditional pasta. Have never found a whole wheat pasta that I like.

            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              Yep, the Barilla Plus stuff works for me too. Interesting about the legume flours, I will have to look at the label. I was wondering how they did it.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                My favorite too. I like Ezekiel brand too.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  sorry, but Barilla Plus is NOT made with whole wheat... although I do like it compared to all other whole-wheat pastas, it is a higher-fiber alternative to regular pasta. By law, it must say in the ingredients: "whole durum wheat flour" or "whole semolina flour" or "100% whole semolina flour" which it does not. I have found the texture of 100% whole pastas too dense and soggy and now stick to Barilla Plus for its better texture and nutritious value.

                2. The other night I made whole wheat penne (Hodgson Mills brand) with blanched super-fresh wax beans and pesto. Fantastic!

                  You do have to watch it carefully when it's cooking, as others have said.