Top Picks: Whole Foods 365 organic and Bionaturae.
Whole grains have made a comeback. What else could explain why supermarkets suddenly boast entire sections stacked with whole-wheat pastas? Made from whole durum wheat, whole-wheat pasta offers the nutritional benefits of whole grains, including three times as much fiber as regular pasta. But its assertively wheaty flavor and coarser, grainier texture take some getting used to.
To determine which pasta is worth buying, we conducted a blind tasting of seven widely available brands of whole-wheat penne pasta, cooked in salted water and tossed with mild vegetable oil. To be honest, we didn’t fall in love with any of them, but some were more appealing than others. Overall, we preferred the ones that resembled regular pasta in both flavor and texture. Our two favorites had a mild, well-balanced, slightly sweet wheat flavor and less of the toughness and grittiness that characterize whole-wheat pastas as a group.
Whole Foods 365 organic
$1.29 (16 oz.)
We liked this pasta for its sweet, nutty flavor and mild wheatiness, which would pair well with a variety of sauces. A decent al dente texture, which reminded us of regular pasta, made it less chewy and gritty than most brands we tasted. This may well be the best choice for those who aren’t keen on whole-wheat flavor but don’t want to give up the nutritional benefits of whole-wheat pasta.
$2.49 (16 oz.)
These organic whole-wheat penne imported from Italy scored almost as well as the Whole Foods brand. Their balanced, mildly wheaty flavor was a major selling point, and their relatively tender texture, with almost no trace of the coarse, gritty mouthfeel common to whole-wheat pasta, won us over as well. “Finally, a texture that’s not bad,” one panelist commented.
Pastas numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.
3. Ronzoni Healthy Harvest
$1.99 (13.25 oz.)
While the subtle wheaty flavor of this pasta (the only one in the group that blends regular semolina with whole durum wheat) was a hit among our tasters, its grainy, gummy texture was disappointing.