Tasty whole-wheat pasta?
February 21, 2008 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Are there any decent-tasting whole-wheat pastas?

So I took the leap and joined Weight Watchers. One of the things they recommend is to eat more whole grains. So I'm trying to switch from regular pasta to whole wheat. So instead of buying my regular delicious De Cecco penne, I bought a box of their whole-wheat penne. I knew it would be different than regular pasta, but I didn't expect it to taste so...horrible! It was barely palatable. I really would have been better off just putting marinara on the shrimp and broccoli and skipping the pasta.

I know there must be better-tasting whole wheat pastas out there. Please, health-conscious hive mind, help me! What do you recommend?

FWIW, I live in the Southern United States. I prefer to shop at the regular run-of-the mill chain grocery, but I will go to Whole Foods if that's what it takes!
posted by radioamy to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In my experience, the thinner the pasta, the better it is in whole grain. I can't find a penne I like, but give me just about anyone's angel hair and I find it absolutely yum.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:33 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like the Barilla Plus, which is multi-grain and enriched or something (my South Beach Diet-loving mom recommends it). I don't notice too much of a taste difference, but mine is usually slathered in olive oil or sauce.
posted by leesh at 10:35 AM on February 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

I would give it time too. The first time I had whole what pasta I thought it was disgusting. Now I eat it all the time, including the DeCecco one you mentioned and Barilla as well. Barilla also has a "healthier" pasta (Barilla Plus) that's higher in protein, fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids and is pretty tasty.
posted by ml98tu at 10:39 AM on February 21, 2008

Ditto the Barilla Plus, that's what my body-builder roommate gets, and it's delicious.
posted by limeonaire at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: We've been really happy with the 365 Whole Foods house brand whole wheat pasta. We tried it based on this review. We also have friends who believe in mixing half regular and half whole wheat pasta together.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: i agree with the thinner pasta. I hate whole wheat penne, but live on the spaghetti.
posted by sweetkid at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2008

I feel your pain. My wife and I are trying to eat fewer empty calories and switching to a lot of whole grain stuff. Barilla Plus isn't too bad. I think it has a lot to do with what you put on it. If the emphasis is on the sauce, the pasta will taste fine. If you're eating a dish where the pasta is the focus, you're really going to notice.

And as others have said, you get used to it. It's like switching from whole milk to skim. At first it seems... wrong. After a while it'll seem normal.

Also, this might be a good time to learn to make your own pasta.
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on February 21, 2008

I cannot remember the brand I use(sorry), but the box is a very light yellow color, and there are two varieties of spaghetti - whole wheat and whole grain. The whole wheat is disgusting, but the whole grain is actually pretty good.
posted by owtytrof at 10:56 AM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: My wife and I went through a bunch of horrible whole wheat pasta before agreeing that the Whole Foods house brand is very tasty. Even the penne and rigatoni.
posted by donovan at 11:06 AM on February 21, 2008

Nthing Barilla Plus. Stay away from thick pastas; my mom is the greatest cook in the world yet whenever I go over for dinner she ruins Italian dishes with whole wheat penne.
posted by Happydaz at 11:15 AM on February 21, 2008

Also - we found that if we mixed whole wheat and regular in some proportion, it's much easier to take.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:15 AM on February 21, 2008

Bionaturae whole-wheat pasta can be very expensive, or merely somewhat expensive, depending on where you get it, but it's definitely got good flavor and a less mealy, more springy al dente texture than many.
posted by RogerB at 11:17 AM on February 21, 2008

This is one of those things that you get used to with time. I suggest mixing whole wheat and white pasta 50/50 and gradually moving up the proportion of whole wheat.
posted by sid at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2008

The other thing about whole wheat pasta is that it really is not a universal substitute for regular pasta. Think about making dishes that complement the nuttiness and texture of whole wheat pasta. And new things, where the pure starchy goodness of white-flour pasta doesn't freight your dining experience with unrealizable expectations. Also: find someone who makes FRESH whole wheat pasta and use that. Fresh pasta, and very good quality Italian dried (they usually come in a bag tied at the top with twine or ribbon--not Barilla, though it's fine) pastas make all the difference in the world.

A few that immediately come to mind:

Alio e Olio, and its many iterations.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage.

Lamb, rosemary, pepper, parsely, black pepper and white wine.

Finally, though it's not directly in point, read this article by Mark Bittman in the Times about less pasta and more sauce, which will achieve some of the same goals.
posted by kosem at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing the Barilla Plus -- I bet you won't notice the difference.
posted by nnk at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2008

I agree with everyone who recommended Barilla Plus ... plus it's 3 points per cup, not 4 like whole wheat pasta. And it has protein!
posted by tastybrains at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2008

I've bought Dreamfields pasta and enjoyed it in the past. Your tastebuds may vary. :)
posted by empyrean at 11:45 AM on February 21, 2008

Except for certain fish dishes where whole wheat pasta clashes and tastes metalic, I use whole wheat pasta exclusively.

It might be worth a try to cook the whole wheat pasta differently than you are used to. The resulting taste and texture is improved, I think, if you add the pasta to boiling salted water as you normally do. Then, when it comes again to a boil, give it a sir, take it off the heat, cover AND LET SIT for 15 minutes or so before you drain it. The time you let it sit will vary according to the brand and type of pasta. Some may go for a bit less, some for 5 minutes more.

The sooner you mix the cooked pasta with your sauce, the better. And try adding a bit of the pasta cooking water to the sauce, it helps the past and sauce get better acquainted.

It seems that as certain brands of whole wheat pastas cool, they congeal. Disgusting. This seems to happen even when not overcooked. Experiment to see what works for you.

I've tried flax seed whole wheat pastas, and brown rice pastas. These are truly horrible!
posted by subatomiczoo at 11:47 AM on February 21, 2008

Barilla Plus is so much better than whole-wheat in terms of taste, texture, and nutrition.

Nthing it.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2008

This is from a Cook's Illustrated November 2005 article and I haven't seen an update since then but here it is as another reference point (FWIW I buy Whole Foods 365):

A coarse, gummy texture and out-of-place "oatmeal" flavor plagued too many of the whole wheat pastas we've tried in years past. Recently, however, the options available have multiplied dramatically. We decided to take another look.

Eight of the 10 contenders were made from whole durum wheat, the notably hard, dense wheat from which semolina, the primary ingredient in traditional pasta, is processed. Though texture has improved overall since our previous tastings, several of the pastas were almost as gritty and gluey as we remembered. Our top finishers, Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Pasta and Eden Organic, blended regular semolina with wheat bran and wheat fiber or whole durum wheat, respectively--so they're not 100 percent "whole" wheat. But the combination of a pleasantly chewy texture and deep, wheaty flavor was worth the minor nutritional trade-off.


RONZONI Healthy Harvest, $1.79 for 13.25 ounces
The only pasta that tasted "undeniably wheaty" without a gummy or grainy texture.


EDEN Organic,
$2.15 for 14 ounces
Nice texture, with a mild flavor-though some found it too mild. "Where's the wheat?"

$2.29 for 16 ounces
The texture of this mild-mannered, "not very wheaty" pasta rivals that of conventional pasta. "A good introduction" to whole wheat pasta.

WESTBRAE NATURAL, $2.49 for 16 ounces
The flavor merely "hints at wheat." Several tasters noticed traces of "gumminess."


ANNIE'S HOMEGROWN, $1.99 for 16 ounces
Full-flavored to some, "intense" to others. Several tasters swore they detected cinnamon.

DE CECCO, $2.29 for 17.5 ounces
The most dietary fiber, but the "gritty, grainy"
texture "feels healthy." The flavor was mild.

EDEN Biodynamic, $2.06 for 14 ounces
Tasters decried the "sandy" texture.

DEBOLES, $1.99 for 8 ounces
Thin noodles were "sticky" and "gluey."

NATURAL VALUE, $2.54 for 16 ounces
"Toothless" pasta reminded tasters of rice.

HODGSON MILL, $2.39 for 16 ounces
"Doughy," "mealy," "sour," and "dusty" sum it up.
posted by spec80 at 11:51 AM on February 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I knew the Hive Mind would come to the rescue!
posted by radioamy at 11:57 AM on February 21, 2008

I like Bionaturae. (I've never had the Barilla Plus, though.)
posted by Enroute at 12:57 PM on February 21, 2008

We like and use a lot of Trader Joe's penne and rigatoni but not their fettucine so much. I've also found that the sooner you can get your sauce or topping on it and eat it, the better, as it has better mouth feel when it's still hot to warm.
posted by Lynsey at 2:45 PM on February 21, 2008

And what sid said, that's how we converted from all white to all whole wheat pasta. Baby steps.
posted by Lynsey at 2:48 PM on February 21, 2008

Barilla Plus is really good, but I also reallllllllly like Ronzoni Healthy Harvest. That said, I've been eating wheat pasta long enough that normal pasta tastes a little funny and empty to me. I really like the nutty flavor of the Ronzoni.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 3:07 PM on February 21, 2008

I started at 50/50 white/ww and eventually started using 100% flax/whole wheat/whole grain pasta several years ago. Now I find white pasta unbearably bland.
posted by loiseau at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2008

I like Barilla Plus, but Target's Archer Farms whole wheat spaghetti is the best actual whole wheat pasta I've ever had, it's delicious, has great texture (the surface is rough and holds sauce really well) and is really so much better than any other whole wheat pasta I've had.
posted by biscotti at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2008

Not what you asked for so feel free to ignore it, but this hack works for me.

Skip the pasta and make zucchini "noodles"--works best for sauces with a thick tomato base (like a chunky bolognese). All it is is a zucchini thinly sliced lengthwise and into long strips, salted and drained, and then briefly blanched. Toss with your sauce as you would with real pasta.

You're then free to enjoy your whole grains on the side in the form of cheesy, buttery garlic toast (hold the cheese, butter...).
posted by QueSeraSera at 8:33 PM on February 21, 2008

Nthing Barilla Plus.

And contributing a BIG FAT THUMBS DOWN on whatever shit brand it is that Whole Foods sells.

Barilla Plus is the absolute best on the market.

The whole foods house brands sucks like the proverbial swedish vacuum cleaner.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:12 PM on February 22, 2008

Response by poster: Okay Hive, I tried 365 Organics Whole Wheat spaghetti from Whole Foods and it wasn't bad. I am having a hard time finding Barilla Plus, but I am going to try a few more markets this week to see if they have it.
posted by radioamy at 9:06 PM on February 26, 2008

Response by poster: Just as a follow-up, tried Barilla Plus - it was great! Boyfriend didn't notice I wasn't using regular pasta. It was a little hard to find, had to try three different stores, but it was worth it.
posted by radioamy at 8:20 AM on March 6, 2008

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