Despite having made a few attempts to defend the honor of whole wheat pasta, I really do hate the crap. So when a client of mine asked me to cook up a healthy but delicious whole wheat pasta dish for a family get together last night, I had some serious concerns.
I would bet that over 50% of people respond “pasta” when asked “what’s your favorite food?” We all love the stuff! So replacing a favorite with a less than acceptable substitute is never easy. The texture isn’t right, the flavor is overpowering, and the cross over from “al dente” to mush seems to take place in a split second. But there is always a way around some of these negativities and it all comes back to expectations.
Rather than throwing the replacement pasta into a traditional sauce that we all know and love, like a marinara or clam sauce or even a bolognese, whole wheat pasta works best when it’s taken in a new direction. There may not be anything ground breaking about a spinach, tomato, zucchini, and basil combination, but it was this pairing of these light and fresh flavors that made this dish really work. Using a handful of parmesan and some of the pasta cooking water to help form just enough of a sauce, this preparation was not only easy but pretty darn good; as much as I hate to admit it. Finishing the dish with some crumbled feta balanced the strong earthy flavor of the pasta and a little lemon and a heavy hand of olive oil brought all of these flavors together.
So while it may not live up to a fresh pappardelle or a big bowl of penne, whole wheat pasta may have some potential after all. Although you still won’t find the stuff in my pantry!