Taste Test: Whole-Grain Pasta

by in Taste Test, February 18, 2010

Healthy Whole Grain Pasta
Whole grains offer more vitamins, fiber and protein than the refined counterparts, but a food’s taste and texture are important — especially when you’re talking about pasta. We took some of the most popular whole-grain pasta brands for a test drive.

Whole Grain Options
Whole wheat used to be the only whole grain pasta choice; nowadays there are pastas made of brown rice, barley, oats and even spelt — all great whole-grain picks. Some food manufacturers take it a step further and use egg whites, flaxseed and flours from legumes such as beans and lentils to tweak the texture and boost a pasta’s nutrient content.

For our test, we chose a variety of whole-grain pastas and scored them on a 5-point scale (5 being the highest). We focused on taste, texture and nutritional value. Prices varied significantly — unlike most white pastas that come in 16-ounce (1 pound) boxes, these brands ranged anywhere from an 8-ounce to a 16-ounce package. Costs were anywhere from $0.13 to $0.33 per ounce.

Prep Tip: Some whole-grain pastas (especially the whole-wheat kinds) have a nutty flavor that doesn’t jive with the acidity of tomato sauce. Think outside the jar of marinara and mix it up with olive oil and garlic, pesto or even a lightened-up alfredo sauce.

Barilla Plus
Rating: 5
Nutrition Info (per 1 cup of cooked pasta): 210 calories, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams protein
Our Take: Great chewy texture and a neutral flavor. Made with flax, barley, wheat, legume flours and some egg whites, this pasta is a little lower in fiber than some of the others but highest in protein — a great all-around pick.

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest
Rating: 3
Nutrition Info: 180 calories, 6 grams fiber, 7 grams protein
Our Take: Containing whole-grain wheat, flax and semolina, this pasta was our least favorite due to its gritty texture and slight aftertaste. The flavor was just okay at best.

Hodgson Mill

Rating: 4
Nutrition Info: 210 calories, 6 grams fiber, 9 grams protein
Our Take: Simple is best. Made with one ingredient (whole-wheat durum flour), this Hodgson Mill pasta was slightly nutty, and though it wasn’t as chewy as white pasta, it had a nice bite.

Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta
Rating: 4.5
Nutrition Info: 200 calories, 1 gram fiber, 4 grams protein
Our Take: Another one-ingredient wonder, this brown rice pasta has a neutral flavor and chewy texture that is closest to regular pasta. Downside: lower fiber and protein count. Make sure to follow the package directions — this pasta requires a lengthy cooking time (16 to 17 minutes) and can be gummy if you don’t rinse it after cooking. If you haven’t seen this pasta before, you will — Tinkyada has been popping up in the natural food aisle of many grocery stores. (P.S. It’s also gluten-free.)

Rating: 4.5
Nutrition Info: 210 calories, 5 grams fiber, 7 grams protein
Our Take: DeBoles gets points for creativity — their pasta is made with whole-wheat flour and Jerusalem artichoke flour (Jerusalem artichokes are a starchy root veggie from the sunflower family). It was pleasantly chewy and downright tasty. The only hitch: It was the priciest!

Another Brand Worth Mentioning
When we spotted Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta in the store, we just had to try it. Made by the same company as the sprouted grain bread from our whole-grain bread taste test, this pasta has 7 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, which is impressive. Thing is, this pasta is, well, weird. The flavor wasn’t horrible but the texture was sub-par — it basically fell apart into tiny shreds when we cooked it.

TELL US: Have you tried these pastas? What’s your whole-grain fave?

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Comments (56)

  1. Lauren says:

    While I love the Barilla Plus, I also eat the Barilla Whole Grain. I was wondering how you think the Whole Grain pasta compares with the Plus pasta?

  2. Donna says:

    Pastariso is the absolute best tasting RICE flour pasta – I can't believe you didn't even mention it. It is not gummy, tastes exactly like regular pasta. So much better than a few you did mention – clearly you missed the boat if you haven't tried this!!!!

  3. foodiefan says:

    my most favorite whole grain pasta ever has been discontinued! Trader Joes used to make a Flax/ Whole Grain that tasted as good a "regular pasta" (in other words, my husband would eat it). It had protein/ fiber scores way up there like the Ezekial brand but without the yuck factor. I miss it and wish they would bring it back.

  4. I generally like the Ezekiel, Food for Life products but I tried the pasta just once. It was beyond awful but not sure how to categorize that. I can't recommend it.

    I agee with foodiefan on the Trader Joe's flax/whole grain pasta but TJs other whole wheat pasta is very good. I've served it to many people who couldn't tell that it was whole grain.

    Overall, I'd say that I like DeBoles the best but I don't eat much pasta,, preferring whole grains most of the time.

    Thanks for this great taste test comparison.

  5. smilinggreenmom says:

    Awesome – thanks! We love pasta and in fact just tried a pasta made from Kamut Khorasan Wheat and it was so fabulous!! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. sally says:

    Barilla has always been the best whole wheat, whole grain, whatever pasta. I agree that
    Ronzoni has a weird texture, but we buy it when it's cheaper than Barilla.

  7. suz waldron says:

    Has anyone tried Dreamfields whole wet pasta?

  8. Ronzoni Healthy Harvest is my favorite!!! Ive never tried Dreamfields, because they dont sell it where we live. For those on a low carb diet, try House Foods Tofu Shiritaki Noodles, available and health and organic food stores! For the whole bag is only 40 calories, and once you cook it up, you can substitute it in nearly anything requiring pasta!!!!!!

  9. Tarrall Arnold says:

    As a diabetic, I have fallen in love with the Dreamfields products. I have served it to my friends who didn't even realize it was different. I was pleased to be able to put pasta back into my diet.

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