Thursday, September 19, 2013

Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole wheat penne with portobello mushroom. Pardon the dishes in the background.
I am a pasta person, I always have been. It's tasty, it's easy, and most of the time it doesn't take much time at all. When I was feeding four hungry college students with a limited combined budget, it's also cheap and filling.
I am a little particular about pasta. I don't really stray away from the brands that I know are good. Back in the US I used to get Barilla. It was readily available, reasonably priced, and was pretty good quality. Nowadays I've been using De Cecco. It is a little harder to find, and they don't always stock all the varieties at my supermarket. I like that they do have some slightly more unusual shapes and have all kinds of short pasta. My favorite is this one. My friends told me they look like little cocoons of butterfly, my mom actually told me once as I was eating my dinner that they looked like maggots (thanks, mom!). I like it because it's good with all kinds of sauces. And also because it is short and easy to cook in a sauce pan so I don't have to dig out that tall pasta pot. I know that pot is somewhere in my kitchen cabinet, I know it, my kitchen isn't that big. But I just can't find it for the life of me.
I've never contemplated switching to whole wheat pasta. It was probably because of this article I've come across years prior. In the article it basically explained why everyone should eat more whole grain and how people can do it by including whole wheat pasta on their menu. At the end of the article there was a taste test section where they compared multiple brands. I distinctly remember words like gummy, bitter, and gritty. I thought, how wonderful, and promptly forgot all about whole wheat pasta. Not that it was very difficult to do, since there aren't that many choices here in Hong Kong. Truth be told, I didn't even notice they were there until I went looking for them this past weekend.
Why am I reconsidering now? Since I've been trying to stay on the vegetarian diet, eating whole grain is more important than before. That and I am actually paying more attention at what I am eating and what they are doing to my body. With that I should at least give it a try mindset, I went to the supermarket this past weakend.
Whole wheat spaghetti is easiest to find. De Cecco has one, Waitrose makes one as well, and there is another brand there called Alce Nero that also carry a whole wheat spaghetti. There were literally two choices beside that, Waitrose offers a fusilli shape while Alce Nero in penne. I have tried some Marks and Spencer pasta before, and they were awful. Crumbly, cooked unevenly, tasted limp, and they were just regular pasta. So I was a little wary of pasta from England, even though Waitrose is not Marks and Spencer. Perhaps I was judging unfairly, and maybe the Waitrose fusilli is in fact very good. But if that is the case, I wouldn't know, since I went with my gut and got the Alce Nero Penne.
I think that the whole wheat pasta market has expanded quite significantly since that article I read years ago. I also think that the quality has vastly improve since then. The whole wheat penne cooked in about the same amount of time as regular pasta. I pinched one san sauce and it actually tasted pretty good. I made a sauce with shallot and portobello mushroom, then I added fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese on top. I almost couldn't tell that it wasn't regular pasta. It was slightly bit wheaty in flavor, and just a little bit less starchy than the regular kind. If I am being honest, I still prefer the regular pasta, but if I have to eat the whole wheat variety? I really don't mind.

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