Love at First Bite? Not Exactly.

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Love at First Bite? Not Exactly.

Whole-wheat spaghetti may be better for you, but will it go over well at home? Maybe with sauce. . .
By Debra Samuels Globe Correspondent / February 9, 2011

Whole-wheat bread entered the mainstream long ago. Now brown rice has displaced white in many bowls, and whole-wheat pasta has become nightly fare in many households — even in Italy. We cooked up five brands of whole-wheat spaghetti and drizzled them with olive oil and salt to see what this increasingly popular product tastes like.

There are a lot of enticing nutrition-related words on packages, such as “heart healthy’’ and “excellent source of fiber.’’ All brands feature a short ingredient list, with durum whole-wheat flour in the lead. Once cooked, the light brownish-gray strands were consistently judged “not appetizing.’’ “Looks and tastes like shoelaces,’’ announced one participant. Two tasters, both raised in Japan, thought some noodles looked like soba (made from buckwheat), but soba, they said, tastes better.
Finishing first and second were 365 Whole Wheat Spaghetti and DeLallo Spaghetti Whole Wheat Pasta, both organic Italian imports. Each has an artisanal look, even dried, with thick strands flecked with brown and white. Other brands were completely indistinguishable from one another and resembled brittle tan pickup sticks. The one voted least favorite was Barilla, which bills itself as “Italy’s No. 1 Brand of Pasta.’’ What we tasted is produced here for the US market and was not No. 1 with anyone at our table.
One person in the group, a reluctant whole-wheat convert, is getting a stony reception when she offers it for nightly suppers. “I have tried serving whole-wheat pasta to my family,’’ she said. “They aren’t going for it.’’ Leftover strands are far from appealing. When I gathered some from each of the five bowls, they ended up looking like a thick skein of slick brown wool. I stir-fried them in a wok with delicious results.

(WINNER) 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods Market) Whole Wheat Spaghetti
$1.29 for 16 ounces
The least expensive of the lot and the favorite. The pasta is imported from Italy. “Has a dark brown color. Nice thickness. The grain flavor comes out,’’ “munchy,’’ “preferable size; hearty taste.’’ Two who chose this as their least favorite cited the size: “This was one of the thickest pastas, with a chewier texture — almost distractingly so.’’

Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti
$1.49 for 13.25 ounces
This brand had nothing to distinguish it. “Blah. No distinct taste, it needs sauce to make it pop at all.’’ “Plain, similar to white pasta in taste.’’ “The taste is so bland and they are too thin.’’ Others commented on the hue and width: “Yellowy in color and seems a bit thin.’’ “The noodle broke up quickly in the mouth, no chance to chew.’’ One person saw this as a positive: “This pasta has a delicate texture and a tinier size with an unidentifiable vegetable flavor.’’ Some found the flavor to be “nutty.’’

DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti
$2.29 for 16 ounces
The package says “made with bronze plates,’’ which means the raw dough is extruded through a bronze form. This would explain the artisanal look many commented on. “This spaghetti has the thickest texture,’’ “thick, light color, and grainy look,’’ “probably made with the coarsest grain,’’ “uncooked it looks less processed.’’ Most found the taste to be “nutty’’ and “hearty and heavier than other brands — complements sauce.’’ One said that it was “too big for spaghetti but had good taste.’’ The color was called “pale’’ and “not so attractive.’’

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Spaghetti
$2 for 13.25 ounces
“Somewhat brown dull color, no smell, and pasty taste,’’ said one. Others: “Bland with slight aftertaste — not unpleasant,’’ “Tasteless soft texture,’’ “it really tastes the same as Ronzoni’’ (this taster nailed the manufacturer). “This spaghetti so far has the most neutral flavor, so it might be the most receptive to absorbing other flavors.’’

Stop & Shop Nature’s Promise Whole Wheat Spaghetti
$1.50 for 13.25 ounces
Two Japanese tasters thought this was soba-like. “It has a strong flavor, but not much elasticity. Looks healthy — taste is similar to buckwheat noodles.’’ Others remarked on its taste. “Very flavorful.’’ “Tastes wheaty and dry.’’ “Has a pale tan color and a faintly floury aftertaste.’’ On texture: “The color is not appealing but the texture is good and it feels nutritious.’’ “This is very al dente and substantial. Slight whole-wheat taste. Would look more appetizing with sauce.’’what brown dull color, no smell, and pasty taste,’’ said one. Others: “Bland with slight aftertaste — not unpleasant,’’ “Tasteless soft texture,’’ “it really tastes the same as Ronzoni’’ (this taster nailed the manufacturer). “This spaghetti so far has the most neutral flavor, so it might be the most receptive to absorbing other flavors.’’

Stop & Shop Nature’s Promise Whole Wheat Spaghetti
$1.50 for 13.25 ounces
Two Japanese tasters thought this was soba-like. “It has a strong
flavor, but not much elasticity. Looks healthy — taste is similar to buckwheat noodles.’’ Others remarked on its taste. “Very flavorful.’’ “Tastes wheaty and dry.’’ “Has a pale tan color and a faintly floury aftertaste.’’ On texture: “The color is not appealing but the texture is good and it feels nutritious.’’ “This is very al dente and substantial. Slight whole-wheat taste. Would look more appetizing with sauce.’’

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