Taste Test: 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
Check out our other taste tests: