As a vegetarian, pasta with a vegetable sauce frequently appears on my family’s dinner table. I’m always looking for simple ways to pack more of a nutritional punch with this go-to dish, and swapping out regular white pasta for a wheat or whole grain version is easy and tasty.
Unlike traditional pastas made of refined durum wheat, or semolina, whole-grain noodles don’t lose their bran and germ during processing. Bran, the outer skin of a whole grain, and the germ, or embryo of the grain, carry healthful fats, protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. High in dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and helps lower blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, whole grains may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
The USDA now urges Americans to eat at least three servings of whole grains a day-about half of your recommended daily grain intake. While three or more servings each day will optimize your health benefits, every bit of whole grain you eat contributes to your health, so look for ways to get a little here, a little there.
Whole-grain pastas provide a tasty new way to meet your body’s needs. They fill you and your family up faster than refined carbohydrates and can add a whole new element of flavor to your usual pasta dishes.
Buying and Storing Whole Wheat Pasta
When selecting any whole-grain product, look for the word “whole” in front of each grain listed on the label. “Wheat pasta” or labels stating “made with whole grains” do contain wheat or whole-grain flour, but also typically contain a higher proportion of refined flour. Though pasta isn’t pricey, whole-wheat types do tend to cost a bit more than the regular pasta.
- Hannaford Whole Wheat Spaghetti, $1.19 for 13.25 ounces
- Barilla Plus Multigrain Spaghetti, $2.50 for 14.5 ounces
- And, if you like organic, check out Bionaturae Organic 100% Whole Wheat Spaghetti, $3.49 for 16 ounces
Cooking Whole Wheat Pasta
The new generation of whole-grain pastas boasts hearty, full flavor and texture closer to that of refined white pastas. Wheat pastas are slightly nutty with a firm, chewy texture. Al dente (cooked only enough to retain a somewhat firm texture), that’s a good thing!) If you are wary about the heartier texture, try a thinner pasta, like angel hair, to get started.
Wheat pasta is prepared exactly like regular white pasta; the only difference may be a slightly longer cooking time.
For a go-to weeknight dinner, try tossing your wheat spaghetti with a jar of marina sauce and top it off with some microwaved broccoli and parmesan cheese. Or for a dish that keeps well and can provide lunch for a few days, check out the pasta salad recipe below.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Simple Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Ingredients (8 servings)
For the Dressing
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano
- 2 lemon, juiced
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 20 grinds black pepper
For the Salad
- 1 lb. whole wheat pasta
- 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 oz. feta cheese
- Handful of kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained of excess liquid and chopped
- 1 jar marinated artichokes, drained of excess liquid and chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- oregano leaves, garnish
- Prepare the dressing. Add everything into a food processor, magic bullet or mix by hand until everything is combined. Set aside.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil
- Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package. While the pasta is cooking, chop up the onion, tomatoes and olives.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain liquid and place in a large serving bowl. Immediately add dressing, toss to coat, then add the rest of the toppings and stir to combine everything together.
- Garnish with oregano and enjoy!