Not so long ago, whole-wheat pasta tasted too much like the boxes it came in.
Much has changed. At many grocers, the whole-wheat or multigrain pasta selection can take up more than a quarter of the section, and the quality and taste have improved considerably.
This is good news because whole-grain pastas, compared to their white-flour equivalents, are a much better source of the fiber and nutrients that get stripped away when grains are refined.
If you have a hard time switching from your favorite refined pastas, experiment with brands until you find one that has a satisfactorily mild flavor. Or transition by mixing half whole-grain and half refined pastas when preparing your favorite dishes.
Of course, the flavors of some dishes are specifically created for whole-grain flavors, such as bigoli (a traditional Italian buckwheat pasta) with caramelized onions and anchovies.
The key to such dishes is the bold flavors that are brought in to match the assertiveness of the whole-grain pasta.
Whole-grain pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese is another delicious example of this kind of flavor pairing.
Healthy, low-in-fat shrimp, acidic tomatoes, pungent garlic, oregano and salty olives and feta cheese balance out whole-grain linguine. To complete the meal, serve with a salad of romaine lettuce dressed with a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette.
WHOLE-GRAIN PASTA WITH SHRIMP, TOMATOES AND FETA CHEESE
Start to finish: 50 minutes (30 minutes active)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, with 2/3 cup of the juice reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 black olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound whole-grain linguine
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until it begins to color, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds more.
Add the tomatoes with reserved juice, wine, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and the oregano. Bring to a simmer. Cook over low, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water heats, add the shrimp, olives and lemon zest to the tomato sauce and simmer until the shrimp are opaque at the center, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the linguine according to package directions. Drain and serve topped with the sauce and sprinkled with the feta cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 494 calories; 121 calories from fat; 13 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 126 mg cholesterol; 58 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 13 g fiber; 889 mg sodium.