Hear the phrase “whole grain pasta,” and you might stifle a yawn. But, stay with me. Once you try the right products (which is key because some whole grain pastas are indeed too assertively wheaty or have an “off taste”), you just might start to prefer them, or at least crave them sometimes. And I (almost) guarantee: the more times you go the whole grain route, the more you’ll acquire a taste for it.
That’s because whole grain pastas deliver a complex, satisfying taste, not to mention more fiber and protein than refined varieties. They’re flavorful, complex, and satisfying enough to pair with just butter and cheese (if you did the same with refined-grain pasta, it might seem too flat or one-dimensional). And, whole grain pasta’s fuller-bodied taste and often sturdier texture make it the perfect match for assertive sauces, such as pestos.
Meanwhile, refined-grain pastas are ideal with lighter sauces, or for when you’re craving a soft, velvety texture. (There’s nothing like sheets of fresh refined-grain pasta tossed with butter, fresh herbs, and vegetables, as at the over-the-moon-incredible restaurant Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island.)
If you’re still skeptical, know that many whole grain pastas are mild enough in flavor to be indistinguishable from refined grain pastas. It’s a win-win situation: you’ll be adding extra nutrients to your diet without sacrificing flavor or texture.
All in all, I recommend having three types of dried pastas in your pantry: refined grain, wheaty whole grain, and mild whole grain. This way, you’ll have lots of options to suit all types of sauces.
But, which products should you buy? For Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine’s April 2011 issue, I tried 42 different dried whole grain pastas, and we ended up with four winners: Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Wheat Pasta, Rao’s Homemade Whole Wheat Penne Rigate, Al Dente Whole Wheat Fettuccini Plus Flax, and Annie Chun’s Japanese Soba Noodles.
Other noteworthy dried whole grain pasta brands/products include:
Whole Wheat: Racconto, Wild Harvest (very mild flavor), Hodgson Mill, Patsy’s, Delallo, and Bionaturae
Alternative Grain, Multigrain, or Flax-Fortified (these have a more assertive taste): Jovial, Racconto, Hodgson Mill
Asian Noodles: Roland (udon or soba), other Annie Chun’s noodles (including pad thai brown rice and mai fun brown rice, both of which are gluten-free)