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Whole Grain Pasta


lperry
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I looked around the site to see if anyone had discussed whole grain pastas before, and I found a few links in the dinner thread where it seems that most people were less than thrilled with their results. I've been trying to incorporate more whole grains into meals, and Mark Bittman did a piece in the Times a while back about increasing the veggies and decreasing the pasta when you cook. So last week I made asparagus and mushrooms with penne using Barilla whole grain. The vegetable to pasta ratio was maybe three to one, and my dining companion, who can recognize whole wheat pasta at twenty paces with his eyes closed, didn't even notice. A second dish was julienned summer squash and linguine with pesto, and I had about twice as much squash as pasta. This was really nice - I got the idea from the Chez Panisse Vegetable cookbook and will be making it again. If you've got pesto in the fridge and a Japanese mandoline, it's a fifteen minute meal.

Returning to the Barilla, upon a second look at the box, I did see that this product is only about half whole grain, and maybe that's the difference? I've used some 100% whole wheat pasta from Harris Teeter that was just not good - the texture was almost mealy. But I also I wonder if I might have overcooked it.

So is anyone else trying these pastas? Have you found one that you really like? Or maybe there's a secret cooking method? I'm not expecting it to taste exactly like the uber-refined version, and I tend to amp up my sauces to compensate for the nutty taste, but I would like something that is better than most of what I've tried.

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I've tried the HT brand and the Trader Joes whole grain penne, and found the same results: "almost mealy." I don't think there's a secret cooking method, since the fact that it's whole grain makes it that way, I think. I anologize it to brown rice or quinoa -- thre more "grains" it has, the more "texture" the food has.

The one time the mealy taste was masked when when I made Baked Penne (substitute penne for ziti) and I don't know if the baking or the combination or sauce and cheese made it softer than just boiling.

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I've liked the brand I find at Giant - I can't remember the name but the box is brown. The Nature's Promise isn't bad - better than HT. I forget where I read this, but instead of waiting for the water to boil, I place the pasta in cold water and it kinda makes it a little more starchy and creamy, which I think helps the whole wheat stuff. Also the shape seems to make a difference - spaghetti and linguine seem to do a little better than penne and rigatoni.

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My wife loves whole wheat pasta and I like it less than regular pasta but find it is still pretty good. Typically we use penne from trader joe's or a brand from Whole Foods (can't remember exact name) that is 100% whole grain. I think you have to treat it like a different ingredient and not substitute it for regular pasta because it has a firmer texture and more grainy taste -equivalent to whole wheat vs white bread. So we typically use the whole wheat pasta for heartier dishes with oil-based sauces, rather than cream-based or tomato sauce recipes.

Our current go to whole wheat pasta recipe was adapted from a food network recipe (can't remember which one though) - it is very easy and simple. First, cook pasta according to instructions on package and then saute a lot of diced onion in olive oil, then wilt a lot of baby spinach in the onions, add a generous handful of pine nuts and let that all cook for a bit. Then when the pasta is close to done, drain and rinse a can of cannelini white beans (soaked dried beans would probably be better, but we always make this last minute) and add the beans to the spinach onion mixture - cook it all for a few minutes on low heat to combine flavors. Finally, drain the pasta and add to other pan with spinach mixture - if the pasta is still dry after tossing it, add a bit of extra olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. And that's it. The nice thing is everything cooks up in about 15-20 minutes it takes to bring the pasta water to boil and cook the pasta and the only thing you have to chop is the onion. Also since there are beans providing protein, this is a one dish meal. Enjoy.

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Interesting (to me) that this topic should come up just now. I've recently been branded type 2 diabetic & am just getting into the whole grain pastas, since carbs from flour-based pastas & bread (& from white rice & rice noodles) have always been more of an issue for me than sugary-type things. I've got my Glycemic Index chart & am watching what I cook & eat even more carefully than before.

Anyway, I had my first shot at whole wheat pasta with the Nature's Promise brand & thought it was pretty yucky - the mealy texture referenced above was not entirely overcome by my homemade marinara.

The good news is that we were down in DC earlier this week (that's good for a whole lotta reasons beyond pasta, I really enjoy your town) & had dinner at the house of some friends. They were making spaghetti & were kind enough to get some whole grain stuff to accommodate me. It was Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Pasta With Flaxseed, which I expected to be even worse than 100% whole wheat pasta, but it proved to be surprisingly good; I thought the texture was significantly better than the Nature's Promise & it didn't have as strong a wheaty taste. I was impressed; I'm going to have to grab some to try with my own recipes.

Not a whole grain product per se, but Dreamfields Pasta has been recommended by other friends for its low glycemic index rating. I'm a little skeptical of their references to their "patent pending formula" as the source of all the wonders of this stuff, but I'll probably give it a try too when I find some.

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Interesting (to me) that this topic should come up just now. I've recently been branded type 2 diabetic & am just getting into the whole grain pastas, since carbs from flour-based pastas & bread (& from white rice & rice noodles) have always been more of an issue for me than sugary-type things. I've got my Glycemic Index chart & am watching what I cook & eat even more carefully than before.

Anyway, I had my first shot at whole wheat pasta with the Nature's Promise brand & thought it was pretty yucky - the mealy texture referenced above was not entirely overcome by my homemade marinara.

The good news is that we were down in DC earlier this week (that's good for a whole lotta reasons beyond pasta, I really enjoy your town) & had dinner at the house of some friends. They were making spaghetti & were kind enough to get some whole grain stuff to accommodate me. It was Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Pasta With Flaxseed, which I expected to be even worse than 100% whole wheat pasta, but it proved to be surprisingly good; I thought the texture was significantly better than the Nature's Promise & it didn't have as strong a wheaty taste. I was impressed; I'm going to have to grab some to try with my own recipes.

Not a whole grain product per se, but Dreamfields Pasta has been recommended by other friends for its low glycemic index rating. I'm a little skeptical of their references to their "patent pending formula" as the source of all the wonders of this stuff, but I'll probably give it a try too when I find some.

Sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. I tried a sample of the Dreamfields Pasta at a recent Diabetes conference and was quite impressed. It didn't have the mealy or odd texture I've tasted before in WW pasta. I've since wanted to buy it, but just haven't been able to locate it in this area.

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My wife loves whole wheat pasta and I like it less than regular pasta but find it is still pretty good. Typically we use penne from trader joe's or a brand from Whole Foods (can't remember exact name) that is 100% whole grain.

I think the Whole Foods one is their store brand 365, or something like that. I like this one too. And thanks for the recipe - I'll give it a try.

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The good news is that we were down in DC earlier this week (that's good for a whole lotta reasons beyond pasta, I really enjoy your town) & had dinner at the house of some friends. They were making spaghetti & were kind enough to get some whole grain stuff to accommodate me. It was Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Pasta With Flaxseed, which I expected to be even worse than 100% whole wheat pasta, but it proved to be surprisingly good; I thought the texture was significantly better than the Nature's Promise & it didn't have as strong a wheaty taste. I was impressed; I'm going to have to grab some to try with my own recipes.

I really like the Hodgson Mill with Flaxseed. We bought it for BLBaby and keep buying it for us. So far I can only find it at Safeway.

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Please post how it is! And if it is now at Stop & Shop, maybe my local Giant will have it soon...

I've been eating Dreamfields for a couple years now... not that frequently. It has nearly as many calories as regular pasta, it's just the "effective carb count" is lower. There are many opinions as to whether or not this is true, based on blood sugar levels and such... Anyway, it tastes just like regular pasta to me. Not the homemade kind, but just fine for its purpose.

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I've been eating Dreamfields for a couple years now... not that frequently. It has nearly as many calories as regular pasta, it's just the "effective carb count" is lower. There are many opinions as to whether or not this is true, based on blood sugar levels and such... Anyway, it tastes just like regular pasta to me. Not the homemade kind, but just fine for its purpose.

Glad to know you like it Brett--here's hoping there's an easier way to find it than just ordering on-line. Where have you purchased it in this area?

Actually when I looked at the label at the conference I was attending, the full (not "effective") carb count was lower than regular pasta. IIRC, the serving size was larger for the same amount of carbs. It's all in how the label reads. And it may not make a difference to the general public, but it does make a difference for diabetics. How carbs are metabolized (fast or slow) will have an effect on whether the body reacts by overproducing insulin to manage the sugar (in Type 2's) and for Type 1's using an insulin pump, there will be a difference in how the carb is accounted for using bolus vs. basal insulin amounts, to keep from getting "swings" in blood sugar.

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Glad to know you like it Brett--here's hoping there's an easier way to find it than just ordering on-line. Where have you purchased it in this area?

Actually when I looked at the label at the conference I was attending, the full (not "effective") carb count was lower than regular pasta. IIRC, the serving size was larger for the same amount of carbs. It's all in how the label reads. And it may not make a difference to the general public, but it does make a difference for diabetics. How carbs are metabolized (fast or slow) will have an effect on whether the body reacts by overproducing insulin to manage the sugar (in Type 2's) and for Type 1's using an insulin pump, there will be a difference in how the carb is accounted for using bolus vs. basal insulin amounts, to keep from getting "swings" in blood sugar.

Actually I've only ordered it online, haven't seen it in a local store.

As per the blood sugar/insulin issue, that's exactly what I was referring to with differing opinions. I am not diabetic myself, so I've never checked my blood sugar after eating Dreamfields. But if you do an internet search you'll see that there's thoughts on both sides of the aisle- diabetics who've finally been able to enjoy pasta, and thsoe whose blood sugar has spiked. I am insulin sensitive though, for reasons I'm not getting into on this board, and I haven't had any negative effects from Dreamfields.

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Actually I've only ordered it online, haven't seen it in a local store.

As per the blood sugar/insulin issue, that's exactly what I was referring to with differing opinions. I am not diabetic myself, so I've never checked my blood sugar after eating Dreamfields. But if you do an internet search you'll see that there's thoughts on both sides of the aisle- diabetics who've finally been able to enjoy pasta, and thsoe whose blood sugar has spiked. I am insulin sensitive though, for reasons I'm not getting into on this board, and I haven't had any negative effects from Dreamfields.

Their website shows that it should be carried locally, but I haven't found it yet!

I've been T1 for 38+ yrs. and an active participant in the diabetic community. There really shouldn't be any negative effects from Dreamfields at all. It is just knowing how to deal with the carbs, and how one's own body responds to different types of carbs, as everyone is different. T1's and T2's do have different issues entirely though with the net carb issue, which is what I had previously tried to address.

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Any updates on this topic?

My wife is really pushing to switch to whole wheat pastas...

I've had ones that aren't that bad for certain preparations, but what's the point?

Look at the nutrition panel of Italian imports to compare whole wheat and (for lack of better descriptor) more-highly processed, dried pasta. Same amounts of fiber and protein for most brands last time I looked.

Same vitamins and minerals for most part since they're all added for the US market. Ironically, the pastas produced for European consumers tend to be superior in nutrition, texture, taste, variety and so forth.

Disclaimer: this opinion was formed some time ago with research done to support personal bias. (Consult De Cecco's Italian site (in English) and then click flag of USA in upper left-hand corner to compare.)

I eat plenty of whole grains and get more than my share of fiber from lots of different sources, so without any trace of guilt, I buy golden strands of spaghetti covered with dull, white specks instead of the brown stuff. Upon occasion, spinach just for the color. Once in a while, whole wheat spaghettini for a garlicky fresh tomato sauce without cheese, or thicker stuff with winter vegetables. Cf. lperry's rhapsody over pizzoccheri which is traditionally made with buckwheat noodles I am not too crazy about, but you can kind of see why greens and potatoes and stringy cheese might benefit from something assertive to go with.

I prefer stubby brown rice to just about any other kind, but it's not what I'd use for risotto. Just saying.

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Any updates on this topic?

My wife is really pushing to switch to whole wheat pastas, and I haven't ever had one that didn't have that mealy texture, and taste like shit to boot.

After watching a taste-test of WW spaghettis on "America's Test Kitchen", I tried their winner: Ronzoni. It's not bad at all, and is also one of the least expensive. J doesn't like it, so he gets regular pasta and I have the WW. I cook his in the pasta pot insert, and mine in the pot below the insert.

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