This is a special message from Barilla.
Just a few years ago, whole grain pasta was a mystery to most consumers. Today, a growing number are discovering its flavorful nuances when they enjoy pasta at home or dine out.
In fact, whole grains are on the rise across the board. All told, almost 20 times more whole grain products were introduced worldwide in 2010 as in 2000, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database, as reported by the Whole Grains Council. In restaurants, mentions of whole grains on menus increased 55.3 percent between 2008 and 2012, Mintel Menu Insights found.
Although whole grain pasta is significantly higher in dietary fiber than traditional semolina pasta, there are also culinary advantages to consider. Notably, when whole grain pasta is combined with other flavorful ingredients, it lends itself to exciting new pasta dishes, as some chefs are discovering.
Take Whole Grain Pasta with Almond Romesco and Garlic Green Beans, a specialty of executive Thomas Horner at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront hotel. Each forkful is elevated by the traditional Spanish sauce romesco, a robust puree of roasted tomatoes, red peppers and garlic thickened with bread and toasted almonds. Red wine vinegar, Spanish paprika, red pepper flakes and olive oil add additional flavor notes. For a final flourish, the dish is crowned with a poached egg.
The tang of the vinegar, the savoriness of the roasted vegetables and the crunch of the almonds all provide a pleasing interplay with the nutty flavor of the whole grain pasta, Horner said.
“When you are marrying ingredients with whole grain pasta, you want deep, bold flavors, because the pasta has more of a grainy, nutty taste,” said Horner. “So a delicate sauce may not stand up to it.” In accord with this view is Lorenzo Boni, executive chef of Barilla America.
"Whole grains bring their own flavors to the plate, much more than their refined-grain cousins,” said Boni. “As a result, they pair best with strong-flavored ingredients than can match their intensity and combine well with it.”
Boni recommends pairing whole grain pasta with assertive vegetables like kale, cauliflower and broccoli rabe. Mushrooms, particularly the earthy-tasting, wild types like morels and porcini, also do it justice. Other good partners are the aged, cow’s-milk cheeses of Northern Italy, like Parmigiano-Reggiano and its kin. Pairings like those with whole grain pasta have long been enjoyed in the traditional cuisine of Northern Italy, Boni noted.
Horner went on to suggest teaming whole grain pasta with the heat of chilies or with the umami, or savory, flavor of roasted mushrooms like black trumpet, hedgehog, lobster and chanterelle, to create a pleasing counterpoint.
However, the chefs agreed that it is unrealistic to assume that the flavors one matches with semolina pasta will automatically hit the same gustatory notes with whole grain pasta.
“A lot of whole grain pastas can handle your heartier sauces very well,” said Mark Baida,.CEC, CCA, ACE, vice president of culinary development for Five Star Gourmet Foods Inc., a custom food producer in Ontario, Calif. “But you have to take each dish individually. It comes down to the taste and direction of what you are making.”
"It's essential to actually taste the pairings you're creating, not just blindly offer a whole-grain substitute,” offered Boni. He pointed out that Barilla Whole Grain pastas are a blend of whole grain and semolina, making them easier to pair with a variety of other flavors than pastas made with 100 percent whole wheat.
Baida predicted in the coming years, as chefs and consumers both become more accustomed to whole grain pasta, it will gain wide acceptance in America, in much the same way as whole grain bread. As evidence, he pointed to the rising prominence of whole grain pasta on retail store shelves.
“You could count on one hand how many whole grain pastas were on the shelf back in 2005, and now there are probably 50 out there,” said Baida. “And retail in many ways drives foodservice.”
This is a special message from Barilla.