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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 http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/.... 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?

          Thx.

          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:
            http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/flgragu...

            1. re: cheryl_h

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

              bruce

        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.

                  1. I use whole wheat pasta almost exclusively. Generally, the imported Italian brands seem to have a better "tooth" to them than the North American stuff. As noted above, you'll want to undercook the pasta a bit, and then add it to your sauce until it is al dente. I find that a heartier shape works better with the chewier texture of whole wheat - e.g. penne in a nice ragu is lovely, but fusili or other delicate shapes are less pleasing.

                    1. I also like Barilla Plus. Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti is pretty good too; however, I had poor results with their whole wheat fettuccine. I eat whole grain pasta about half the time now - it's better than I thought it would be. I especially like it with greens or broccoli rabe sauteed with olive oil and garlic.

                      1. I made whole wheat pasta from scratch using equal parts whole wheat and semolina flour. (I usually use equal parts semolina and all purpose, so I just replaced the AP with the whole wheat.) I rolled it out to #4 on the KitchenAid pasta roller, hand-cut it into pappardelle about a half inch wide, and served it with a guazzeto of duck leg meat. Nice texture, just a tiny bit grainy on the tongue, a perceptible whole-wheat-y taste, and a good sturdy basis for the rich sauce.

                        1. You might try this:

                          http://www.dreamfieldsfoods.com/

                          If you really want to try whole-grain pasta for the nutritional benefits, then all these other suggestions are good ones. I just can't bring myself to like that stuff; when I have a pasta craving (a frequent phenomenon), whole-wheat just doesn't do it for me. But we are trying to cut down on refined carbohydrates, and the Dreamfields pasta, by some miracle of science, has about the same "effective" carbs as the whole-grain kind. It's also quite good-tasting, and not much more expensive than the "normal" brands. Our mainstream supermarkets around here carry only the spaghetti and shell macaroni, but if you follow the link on the Dreamfields website you can get a much wider range of varieties.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Will Owen

                            I've tried the Dreamfields stuff and its pretty good. I can still tell the difference...but not by much. It definately keeps the tooth.

                          2. We were underwhelmed by Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti. Penne is a little better. These days I use half whole wheat and half regular pasta to make it a little healthier. I have also upped the ratio of veggies or beans to pasta. I am glad to hear of the other brands/options mentioned here. Will try them out.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sweetTooth

                              Oh, and I forgot to mention that I've always used whole wheat couscous instead of regular and like it. So if it's a radically different shape/style of pasta that you are going to try for the first time, it might be better to get the whole wheat kind. That way you don't have a baseline taste to compare against and so a better chance of liking it. Geez! That sounds neurotic, doesn't it? :">

                              1. re: sweetTooth

                                I tried whole wheat couscous after eating a fair amount of the regular version and can't tell much difference. It's a little darker but tastes much the same. It may depend on what you're adding to it.

                            2. How long do you steam the whole wheat couscous?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: wally

                                Don't remember offhand. In the past, I have just followed directions on the box(this is Trader Joe's brand) and haven't had a problem.

                                1. re: sweetTooth

                                  I like TJ's whole wheat couscous too. It basically cooks in the same time as regular couscous. That said, I always cook all couscous longer than the 5 minutes the box says - more like 20. I use the method from "Fields of Greens" by Annie Somerville. Use equal amounts of couscous and water. Saute couscous in butter (optionally add chopped almonds/pine nuts) until fragrant, about 5 min. Turn off heat. Boil water, add salt (and optionally stir in dried currants/apricots and cinnamon), pour over couscous. Cover and let sit 20 min. Fluff with fork.

                              2. I use whatever is on sale, but prefer the Italian and/or organic brands. I use EXLUSIVELY whole wheat or multigrain, with every kind of sauce. I just ate some ww bowtie pasta with tuna, black olives, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan, lemon, onion, and basil. Yum... esp. with a glass of wine.

                                The best way to get accustomed to it is to mix it, 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 regular. It looks interesting that way as well.

                                1. I've experimented with different spelt, kamut and rice pastas before but none have particularly wowed me. Last week, I saw that Rustichella d'Abruzzo had started making whole grain durum wheat pastas so I bought some spaghetti. As others suggested, I undercooked it a bit (note: it took several minutes longer than the box suggested) and then added it to my (Rao's) tomato sauce with ground turkey, arugula, peas, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and parmesan. The pasta itself was nutty, textured, held up well to the sauce - really fantastic. Highly recommended.

                                  1. I really like Hodgson Mills whole wheat pasta prodcts. When I make pasta at home i only use whole wheat. The pasta tasted very nutty and is filling.
                                    I like this recipe a lot. It's really fast to make.http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                    1. This is kind of an old thread but hopefully you do get to read this. If you are in NYC, you will want to try the fresh made (but dried)whole wheat pasta at Borgatti's in The Bronx. This is the Belmont section of the Bronxs aka Arthur Ave. They are on E187th Street across from Mt. Carmel church. Their Whole Wheat is really excellent and for me has become the standard by which I compare other whole wheat pasta. They only make it in a fairly wide linguine shape. They also have Spinach and while not whole wheat certainly worth a mention here; as is their fresh pasta (Ravioli, Manicotti, Fettucine etc.)