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.)

DeBoles
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. sneubeck says:

    are they really whole grain or less processed than traditional white flour?

  2. Janey says:

    Dreamfields is excellent (and it fools my picky "white flour" step-son!) Also good are Barilla Plus, and SmartTaste, which is a bit "soft" but tastes just like regular pasta. High fiber pastas have come a long way, that's for sure.

    I don't care about the added cost; I love pasta and am happy to pay more for a "better for you" product!

  3. Adam says:

    My favorite brand of whole wheat pasta is by Bionaturae..

    http://www.bionaturae.com/pasta.html

    It's not too dark and has more of a mild flavor than the strong, nutty flavors of a lot of whole grain pastas.. has very nice texture also

    I'm not sure how readily available it is though, I buy it at Whole Foods but i'm not sure i've seen it many other places.. but if you ever spot it, I recommend trying it

  4. Susan says:

    We just tried the shiritaki noodles. 20 calories for 4 oz!!! If you expect the texture of traditional pasta, you will be disappointed. It is a soy and yam product. Next time, I'll try using it baked in a casserole, maybe the texture will be different (they're kind of slippery) My husband and I agreed that even though they're different , its worth using because of the calorie content. You find them with the soy products in a refrigerator case at the store.

  5. Morgan says:

    Not quite a pasta, but I've always loved both bean thread and yam noodles. Love the slippery texture, and their transparency can make some beautiful dishes. Very low calorie, too. Would love to know how to make them myself.

  6. scribbler says:

    I love Ronzoni. It tastes great and have no issue with the texture.

  7. janis says:

    I was so happy to find Tinkyada at my grocery store.. I recently discovered that I am sensitive to gluten products and have had wonderful results with cutting it out of my diet. I was/am a huge pasta fan and was delighted that there was an alternative out there for me

  8. I love and recommend Barilla Plus pasta. I sometimes buy the whole wheat variety but the Plus is well accepted by my kids so that's my go-to brand.

  9. Rachel says:

    I'm now buying the Barilla Whole Grain. It's ok. I really like the Barilla Plus and Ronzoni Smart Taste, but want more whole grain….

  10. Miriam says:

    I just recently tried the Hodgson Mills.Loved the taste and texture.It's true that the whole wheat pastas aren't as pleasing to the palate with tomato sauce.Experiment with so many wonderful produce,garlic olive oil etc.
    I find if I saute the veggies first, it brings out better flavor.

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