Growing up, our table may not have been as "red-sauce-Italian" as my father's when he was a child, but we definitely ate pasta at least three or four times a week, sometimes with the ubiquitous red sauce, often tossed with store-bought pesto or butter. However we were eating it, we noticed when the pasta brand my mother bought changed, and when whole wheat started becoming popular, we definitely noticed the gummy texture and strange, new color. Like with most kids, the verdict was quickly clear: We didn't like change.
Luckily, whole wheat and organic pastas are no longer gummy or oddly textured, and today, there are several organic pasta brands that can take the place of the American supermarket brands on your dinner table any day.
La Terra e il Cielo - Organic Whole Wheat Pasta
Most Italian brands of pasta -- the ones that are actually made in Italy, anyway -- are organic by their very nature, due to Italian standards. La Terra a il Cielo, however, is certified organic, making it marketable as organic in America. This brand, one of the pricier ones, is nevertheless growing in popularity in the States for several reasons. Firstly, its flavor and texure are some of the best; the stone-milled durum wheat flour that makes these pastas is ground according to traditional techniques, creating a texture that anything but gummy and a flavor that highlights the nuttiness of whole wheat. La Terra e il Cielo uses only two ingredient -- organic whole wheat and Appenine Mountain spring water -- to make its pasta, available in several different shapes. You can order La Terra e il Cielo pasta on Amazon, if you can't find it in a local Italian specialty food store.
Jovial - Brown Rice Pasta
For those cutting out wheat for dietary reasons, many of the pasta options resemble whole wheat choices from 10-15 years ago: gummy and flavorless, or worse, with too pronounced a flavor that is distinctly un-pasta-like. Luckily, several companies have developed rice pasta options, including Jovial which is, in my opinion, one of the very best out there. Let's be clear: This doesn't taste like wheat pasta. But with tomato sauce and meatballs, it's a very fair substitute, and it gives those avoiding gluten an opportunity to eat their favorite pasta dishes, or even try some new ones, like our very own Brown Rice Pasta with Asparagus, Shiitakes, Pesto and Cheese. According to the company, this pasta was "developed for taste and texture first, gluten free second." It's a product I'd be proud to serve to guests avoiding gluten.
The best way to ensure that the pasta you're eating is completely organic and filled only with ingredients you want to feed your family is by making your own, of course. While it's great to have boxed pasta in the cupboard for a quick weeknight meal, making homemade pasta, like homemade lasagna sheets, can elevate recipes to the next level. I use this spinach pasta recipe to make my very own homemade lasagna. Make two at a time and freeze one for easy defrosting and serving later.
Use homemade or organic boxed pasta in any of your favorite pasta recipes, or try some of ours:
image: Christian Cable