Every time I’m at the market, it seems like I spot a new addition to the whole grain pasta category. I love pasta, and I love whole grains . . . but I admit to being less than impressed when the two have met in the past. Now that there are so many choices out there, though, I thought it was time to take a closer look.
I’ve found most whole wheat pastas in the past to be either gummy, with a sort of stick-to-your-teeth kind of feel, or so brittle as to break when spinning around a fork. In this test, my ideal texture was a true ‘al dente’ toothsomeness without being overly chewy or dry. And while I enjoy a strong, whole-wheat flavor for certain dishes, in this case I was looking for a neutral taste without being so bland as to risk muting the flavors of an entire dish.
In other words, in this taste test, I was searching for whole grain pasta that looked, acted and tasted as much like traditional pasta as possible.
I tried eight spaghettis in all, cooked precisely to their individual time specifications in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Here’s how they fared:
*** Best ***
Bella Italia Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Bella Italia spaghetti tastes like what you’d find in Italy, and its minimalistic ingredient list—organic, whole durum wheat flour and water—is probably what makes it so. This spaghetti most closely resembled traditional pasta in both taste and texture, earning a 4+ out of a possible 5.
*** Late addition — Check out the new Jovial brand pasta, made from an ancient strain of wheat called Einkorn. It too merits best status.
** Very Good **
DeCecco Enriched Whole Wheat Spaghetti
DeCecco is a bit darker in color with good flavor. While it has a nice bite, it did border on chalky; maybe because of a coarser semolina grind, or maybe because of the ubiquitous nutritional “fortifications” (niacin, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid) added in the US. 4 out of 5.
* Good *
Barilla Plus Spaghetti
Barilla Plus is the whole grain pasta that first won me over, and it still holds its own in a crowd. This pasta comes from a unique blend of legume/whole grain flour milled from lentils, chickpeas, spelt, barley, flaxseed, oat fiber and oats mixed with durum wheat flour, which gives it a nutritional edge over other pastas. Barilla Plus has double the amount of protein and fiber of traditional pastas and a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids, an unusual component for pasta. This spaghetti has a mild flavor without being bland along with a decent texture, but it does fall on the crumbly side. 3+ out of 5.
Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti
This version of Barilla is made with whole wheat flour (albeit just over the hump at 51%) enriched with oat fiber. The result is a neutral tasting noodle with a respectable bite, although it can tend towards too mushy. 3 out of 5.
The rest of the pastas I tasted brought back not-very-fond memories of whole grain pastas of yesteryear and all the shortcomings listed above. None scored above a 2. These included:
- Eating Right Multigrain Spaghetti
- O Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti
- Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Spaghetti