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Pasta Power

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

The National Pasta Association supports the dietary recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recommends eating six to 11 servings per day from the grain group. Diets built on a base of pasta, bread, cereal, and other grain-based foods tend to be low fat. A low fat diet, along with regular exercise, helps to achieve an overall healthy lifestyle.

Pasta Power

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body and insulin helps cells utilize glucose for energy. While it is true that insulin is a key hormone in the maintenance of blood sugar, eating more carbohydrates does not mean insulin will increase. Even if you do have an elevated insulin level, it is still wiser to cut back on consumption of saturated fats and increase your consumption of carbohydrates, preferably in the form of grains, fruits and vegetables.

Weight gain cannot be blamed on any single food or food group. Eating too much of any food can make you gain weight. Complex carbohydrates are not fattening. It's what you add to them that is, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, mayonnaise, gravies and cream sauces. Remember that a gram of fat has nine calories which is more than twice the calories of a gram of carbohydrates.

Enter Pasta Power

Pasta platePasta receives a lot of negative hype because many people believe that it drastically increases blood sugar levels and causes major weight gain.

However, pasta is a nutritious food that can be part of any healthy eating plan.

Two ounces of dry pasta, or about one and one-half cup of cooked pasta, has the following nutritional benefits.


  • Only 211 calories.
  • Seven grams of protein.
  • Less than one gram of fat.
  • Two grams of fiber.
  • Zero cholesterol.
  • Forty-two grams of carbohydrates.

Don't let the carbohydrates scare you. Pasta is high in complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and which leave you feeling full for a longer period of time. It also provides you with energy for several hours.

Cooking Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole Wheat Pasta Power, Anyone?

In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, most all pasta manufacturers have introduced nutritionally enhanced pasta varieties such as whole wheat, whole grain rotini and pasta fortified with omega 3 fatty acids and additional fiber. Some varieties of whole grain pasta can provide up to 25 percent of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion.

Whole wheat pasta offers up optimum nutrition and has a rich, nutty flavor that stands up to robust sauces. New versions are much smoother and lighter than older versions, making it much easier and more enjoyable to get the benefits of whole wheat pasta. If you're new to using it and your first experience doesn't meet your expectations, try another brand before giving up on this wholesome pasta choice.

Good Housekeeping did a "taste test" on whole wheat pasta. Out of 19 samples of cooked, dried 100 percent whole wheat, wheat blended or multigrain penne, the winner was Bella Terra Whole Wheat Penne Pasta. It is said to have a very nice texture with a taste very much like white pasta.

We've also had people tell us they truly like Wal-Marts brand of whole wheat pasta, so it truly is a matter of personal taste and preference. That's why we suggest trying different brands if one doesn't tantalize your taste buds.

Tips For Cooking Whole Wheat Pasta

  • The trick to cooking whole-wheat pasta is to cook it for the full time recommended.
  • Unlike many conventional types of pasta, which need to be pulled off the fire minutes before the directions suggest, whole-wheat pasta needs to be fully cooked before you drain it. And the stubby pasta shapes benefit from staying in the water for one minute after you've removed the pan from the stove. Then drain immediately.
  • Don't rinse your pasta after it's been drained. You'll risk losing the flavorful starches that will help your sauces cling to it later.
  • Whole wheat pasta matches well with assertive garlic, tomatoes, capers, and tangy cheese, as well as with hearty cabbage and sausage.

Colorful pastas

Pointers for Perfect Pasta

  • Per pound of pasta, bring 4 quarts water to the boil; some chefs recommend 6 to 8. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then add 1-1 /2 tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta.
  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the water only when cooking stuffed fresh (not dried) pasta -- it helps reduce friction and keeps the pasta from bursting.
  • When the water returns to a rolling boil, add the pasta all at once, stir, and cover the pot briefly, just to hurry the water back to a boil. Then cook, uncovered, stirring frequently.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander. Do not rinse it! Return it to the hot pot or place it in a large, warm bowl, and toss it immediately with the hot sauce. If the sauce is not quite ready, you can toss the pasta with a few tablespoons of olive oil and cover the pot or bowl.
  • Throw a spoon into boiling pasta and it won't boil over.
  • Keep pasta water from bubbling over by spraying the pan first with nonstick spray.
  • To prevent pasta from boiling over and sticking together, add some butter or oil and salt. Always add the pasta to the water after it has boiled, not before.
  • When making delicious pasta dishes, be sure to choose a pasta shape and sauce that complement each other. Thin, delicate pastas like angel hair or thin spaghetti, should be served with light, thin sauces. Thicker pasta shapes, like fettuccine, work well with heavier sauces. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges like mostaccioli or radiatore, are perfect for chunkier sauces.
  • Spaghetti noodles too long? After cooking the noodles, run a pizza cutter across it on a plate to make neatly cut pieces of pasta. This works great for kids.
  • When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes together is one delicious combination.
  • Add herbal flavor to pasta while it cooks. Put a large handful of fresh herbs in the bottom of a pasta pan, then put a pasta insert in the pan. Add water, heat it to boiling and cook the pasta. When the pasta is done, drain it and discard the herbs.

Pasta Salad Pointers

  • For most pasta salads except Asian types, use small pastas such as penne, fusilli, farfalle, rigatoni, orzo, conchiglie or orecchiette.
  • Use whole wheat pasta for high-fiber healthy salads. If you find whole-grain too heavy on its own, mix it half-and-half with the same shaped refined pasta.
  • Aside from fresh vegetables and fresh herbs, other add-ins great for salads include drained canned tuna, prosciutto (ham), smoked turkey, shrimp and drained canned beans such as cannellini or even chickpeas.
  • Rinse pasta you will use for salad under cold running water to remove excess starch and to keep the pieces from sticking together.
  • Keep leftover pasta shapes that have similar cooking times together in an airtight container for quick meals.
  • If just a small amount of pasta remains in the package, cook all the pasta and use the leftovers in salads.

Make Perfect Pasta Salads Every Time!

  • For most pasta salads except Asian types, use small pastas such as penne, fusilli, farfalle, rigatoni, orzo, conchiglie or orecchiette.
  • Use whole wheat pasta for high-fiber healthy salads. If you find whole-grain too heavy on its own, mix it half-and-half with the same shaped refined pasta.
  • Aside from fresh vegetables and fresh herbs, other add-ins great for salads include drained canned tuna, prosciutto (ham), smoked turkey, shrimp and drained canned beans such as cannellini or even chickpeas.
  • Rinse pasta you will use for salad under cold running water to remove excess starch and to keep the pieces from sticking together.
  • Keep leftover pasta shapes that have similar cooking times together in an airtight container for quick meals.
  • If just a small amount of pasta remains in the package, cook all the pasta and use the leftovers in salads.

Pasta Salad Bowl

Pasta Salad Quick Fix

Feta Pasta Spirals: Combine one cup cooked spiral shaped pasta, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, one minced scallion, and one small diced red pepper with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing.

Pasta Notes

Cooking pasta al dente, or firm to the bite, preserves some of the vitamins and minerals that are lost into the cooking water with longer cooking times.

If you are making pasta for a cold salad, rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Dry it well before dressing it, as an oil-based dressing will slide right off wet pasta.

Cooking Pasta Tip