Swap Ready

Get Real: Noodle Basics

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

Pasta is one of the greatest things that ever happened to grains and to my taste buds! “Pasta” is an Italian word for “paste.” All pasta is made from a dough of grain flour mixed with water. There are many different shapes and sizes of pasta. While most are made from wheat, other grains can also be used on their own (for people who are gluten intolerant) or combined with wheat. Take a dough made from grain, force it through a variety of differently shaped molds and out come nifty noodles of varying shapes — flat, smooth, solid, hollow, and twisted. 

Making pasta tasty with good texture and nutritional depends entirely on the flour used. Pastas made with whole grain flours are naturally the most nutrient dense because the bran and germ of the grain have been left in. The pasta you are used to seeing in the store shelves is made typically with durum wheat. Durum wheat is high in protein and gluten which makes it stick together well, perfect for pasta to hold its shape. Most dried pasta you see is made with semolina or farina or both. These flours have had the germ and bran removed, in turn reducing the fiber and nutritional values. So, as with all foods, look at the labels. Here are some words to look for:

  • Whole wheat means what it says – the whole grain. Make sure it’s listed as the first ingredient, and not just a marketing label on the front of the box.
  • Macaroni means the pasta is made with semolina, farina, and/or flour made from refined durum wheat. Macaroni comes in many shapes: spaghetti, elbow macaroni, shells, etc.
  • Egg noodles are made from flour, water, and egg (either egg white or whole eggs).
  • Corn pasta has less protein than wheat pasta, but it is more easily digested by gluten-sensitive persons.
  • Multi-grain pasta adds dense grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, or flour from soy to wheat flours to make the pasta richer in protein.
  • Rye pasta is also known as “spelt” and is particularly high in protein, fiber, zinc, and iron. (However it is not made from spelt just for clarification)
  • Flavored pasta includes vegetables, such as spinach and tomato, to add taste, variety, and nutrition to plain old pasta.
  • Couscous is a cross between a grain and pasta. It is made from cooked and dried semolina. The tiny grains are cooked like rice, absorbing all the cooking liquid.
  • Soba Noodles  are tasty, thin Japanese noodles made with buckwheat, which isn’t wheat, but it’s usually blended with wheat so not gluten-free.
  • Udon Noodles are thick Japanese wheat noodles that hold up well in soups.
Before you head out to the store this week, check out this video from Roxube Cooking School on how to choose the right pasta at the store.
Want to know the perfect way to cook a batch of pasta? Here are some tips:
  • Use a big enough pot. Pasta can expand up to three times its original size so give it room!
  • Don’t skimp on water. Use at least 2 quarts of water for each 1/2 pound of pasta.
  • Stir it often so the pasta does not stick together.
  • Check to make sure your pasta is cooked early and often. Basically, you want the pasta to feel firm and slightly springy when you bite into it. If it sticks to your teeth when you chew it, it’s not ready. And don’t throw it against the wall or your fridge, while fun and entertaining, it won’t let you know they are done. Pasta will continue cooking after it’s drained.
  • Do not rinse the pasta after it has been drained. The pasta water helps the sauces and flavors stick to the noodles.

March Week One Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. Make one of your favorite pasta dishes (or peruse some of ours) and use whole wheat noodles. Can’t go 100% whole wheat? Try the dish with half whole wheat, half regular and see what you think!
  2. Headed out to your favorite Italian restaurant this week? Ask them what grains they use in their pastas, and simply ask if there’s a whole wheat option! You never know what you can get.

March Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Sponsor:  Once A Month Mom – One pledged Get Real participant will be winning some pasta making tools packet.

Guest Author: Kristen of Dine & Dish

13 Responses to “Get Real: Noodle Basics”

  1. Valerie says:

    I actually like whole wheat noodles just as much, or maybe even more, than regular ones. Unfortunately, my boyfriend doesn’t. He has unilaterally declared that all noodles shall be traditional, plain, WHITE, noodles. Sigh. Still looking for a way to work him around….. :)

  2. Deven says:

    Great article! But, could you please recheck the bullet point on rye & spelt. They are not the same thing. Nor is the taste similar. ;-)Spelt is more similar to wheat. Rye & Spelt are a great combination. I wouldn’t want newbies to whole foods to be confused.

  3. Deven says:

    And yep, I know that rye pasta can be called spelt. I’m talking about explaining a bit further so that someone isn’t confused later. ;-P

  4. Andrea Kruse says:

    Pasta is a meal the kids always love! We make our own and each time I get faster and the process gets easier. Love the taste and texture of homemade noodles.

  5. SarahM says:

    I LOVE noodles! I actually prefer the taste of 100% whole wheat noodles over plain white ones. Alas, I’m the only one in my home that does.

    I’ve tried mixing half and half, adding a little more salt to the cooking water, different/more spices, different sauces, etc. The only type I can get away with making is Barilla’s Whole Grain pastas. While not 100% whole wheat (they are 51% whole wheat), I consider them to be better than plain white noodles. Ingredients: whole grain durum wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat flour, oat fiber.

    Every now and then I do make dishes with 100% whole wheat pasta in hopes I can find a recipe that will please everyone. Tonight’s supper is Bacon Mac n’ Cheese made with 100% whole wheat penne. Maybe if I add extra bacon they will forgive me for using the pasta :D

  6. Kaci says:

    I love making my own pasta! My boyfriend and I actually just got into it last month after a trip to the north end in Boston. We ate the most incredible authentic Italian food and I came home craving more raviolis. I love the ones that we have made but am still mastering how to thaw and cook them without them falling apart. Right now, if I let them thaw a bit and cook in very hot boiling water they seem to stay together the best. Any ideas?

  7. Stacey says:

    I am wondering how the flour information from Bread Beckers about the oxidation of nutrients factors in to the nutrition of noodles. If freshly milled flour makes such a huge difference for bread, would it do so for pasta as well? and then is there a way to cook/lock in the nutrients for storage or must it be just made fresh each time its needed?

  8. Ashley says:

    I am so in love with pasta and am constantly trying to come up with different varieties other than the old stand by with tomato sauce! Thanks for touching on this! Looking forward to pulling out my pasta machine and making some whole wheat goodness!

  9. Alexandra says:

    I have always wanted to make my own pasta, but have yet to do it. After reading the other week’s challenges, I am going to make pasta this week with my kids. A little messy but totally worth it. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement.

  10. Marleena says:

    You can get 100% Buckwheat Soba Noodles that are gluten free you just have to read the ingredients to make sure.

  11. lynn says:

    I bought a veggie spiral slicer to make zucchini and squash noodles. My family really likes them, but not ready to give up real noodles yet.

Leave a Reply

After hitting submit your comment will await moderation.