Q: Erika, how do I make whole grain pasta not taste like cardboard?
A: Man, you can’t.
I mean, you can, but you have to do a few things to your tongue, first. Like, you have to forget what white pasta tastes like.
No, really. I know it’s all soft and gooey and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but let’s be honest. Actual-factual food…. doesn’t “melt in your mouth.” Chemicals “melt in your mouth.” (Sorry, M&Ms.) We’re not cooking chemicals on this site. We’re cooking food! This includes… restaurants. Yes, restaurants. So when you order your [insert favorite pasta dish] from [insert restaurant], ask the waiter if they offer it with whole wheat pasta… or find something else to order. Seriously, you have to abandon white pasta altogether.
So… once we get past that “Mmm, I miss white pasta” mentality, we embrace the things that whole wheat pasta give us. Nutrition, for starters! You’ll most likely eat less of it, because good whole wheat pasta is nutrient-dense, and offers up quite a bit of what you’ll need to help you feel satiated – fiber and protein being big ones.
So, let’s talk texture. It is chewy, a little thick and doesn’t automatically fade away once it touches your saliva. Yes, it requires work to chew. But the chewy brown stuff is superior to white pasta because instead of just carrying the flavors and textures of the other items in your dish, it actually brings some of it’s own… including that lovely cardboard thing you mentioned!
How do we combat the cardboard taste? Cook it with a flavored stock!
Vegetable stock, bean stock, chicken stock, beef stock… any of ’em. When I cook my black beans, I save the liquid in the pot and put it in large pitchers.. then using the leftover black bean juice to add flavor to my pasta. You can make an easy chicken stock by tossing carrots, cabbage, celery, onion and chicken in a pot with lots of water, and letting it cook the chicken all the way through on relatively moderate heat (maybe a 7 on a scale of ten). Not only will you have some good food for a dinner dish, but you can save the leftover liquid for future pasta attempts.
Vegetable stock? Easy. Feel free to toss the leftovers, rinds or unused pieces of vegetables – paired together to suit your tastes, though – in a pot with your favorite herbs and lots of water, and you can make your own vegetable stock.
Save your juices, and when you make your whole wheat pasta… use your stock! You could also use herbs and veggies in your pot when you boil your actual pasta, but depending on the veggie, it might take too long. The stock is generally the best way to prepare in advance and the fastest way to get your flavorful pasta done right, in my mind.
Bon appetit! 🙂
Anyone else got tips for hooking up your whole wheat pasta?