Especially as the season turns cooler, into fall, and winter, I crave pasta. Big steaming bowls, coated with lots of freshly grated cheese, and a sauce, washed down with gallons of red wine. I don’t recall eating any of the brands of whole wheat pasta mentioned in this article, but I am going to seek them out.
Melissa Clark writes, in part:
Unlike the gluey, good-for-you-but-not-your-tastebuds pastas of yore, the best whole-grain brands are firm-textured and tasty. I like the toastiness of whole-wheat spaghetti from Garofalo, which Emma Hearst, the chef and a co-owner at Sorella in Manhattan, compared to Grape-Nuts when we tasted it together. The gentle, honey-like flavor of Gia Russa whole-wheat fettuccine makes it a perfect “kid pasta,” said Anna Klinger, chef and co-owner at Al di Là in Park Slope, Brooklyn. My favorite is Bionaturae, which has a mild, clean flavor and an elastic texture that comes closest to that of regular pasta.
The warm, nutty flavor of varieties like these is robust enough to stand up to intense, complicated sauces, yet satisfying with just a little butter and Parmesan shaved over the top. Some were so good that I would happily eat them for their own toasty sake, even if their high fiber and nutrient count had not been lingering in the back of my mind.
According to Lidia Bastianich, co-owner of Felidia restaurant and of the new Italian-food megaplex, Eataly, with growing numbers of people trying to eat more healthfully, the demand for higher quality whole-grain pastas has gone up. Manufacturers big and small are working hard to create products with the springy texture and sweet flavor that once was obtained only through refined flour.
For the most part, Ms. Bastianich said, they are succeeding. Eataly makes fresh whole-wheat and farro pasta daily, and carries nine shapes of dried whole-grain pasta, including Garofalo’s fusilli and Alce Nero’s farro penne. She says she enjoys eating whole-wheat pasta at home.
“There are times when I prefer something less starchy and more nutritious, but I also like its nutty, grainy flavor,” Ms. Bastianich said.
She suggests pairing whole-wheat pasta with heartier pestos, like one made with spinach and walnuts. Anchovies and bread crumbs also go nicely with full-flavored whole grains, she said, as do wilted greens.
To that list, I would add spicy tomato sauces, meat sauces, and chunky vegetable sauces with plenty of garlic. Delicate cream sauces, however, tend to come up short.
(click to continue reading A Good Appetite – Whole-Grain Pastas That Taste Good – NYTimes.com.)
Bionaturae, Garofalo, Alce Nero, Rustichella d’Abruzzo, all were mentioned by name by Ms. Clark as not-sucking.
And a little history of humankind and noodles:
The reason these grains make good pasta, said Andrea Brondolini, an ancient-wheat specialist at the Italian Agricultural Research Council in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, can be traced to the early history of agriculture. As ancient types of wheat were hybridized into modern varieties, they were bred for a higher yield.
“Higher yields are detrimental to the quality because when you improve the yield, you lose nutritional values, including iron, carotenoids, vitamin E, microelements and proteins,” Mr. Brondolini said in a telephone interview.
Ancient grains are less hybridized and therefore retain more nutrients and proteins, he explained, including glutens that help pasta hold together when it’s cooked and give it a firm bite.
The first pastas ever boiled to al dente perfection were made from whole-grain flour, according to Oretta Zanini De Vita, author of the Encyclopedia of Pasta. They must have been good, or pasta would have gone the way of garum and gruel instead of evolving into one of the most beloved foods on the planet.