Forget that you even saw the word whole wheat when you read the title of this new post! For many people, the words “whole wheat” and “spaghetti” don’t belong in the same sentence! Believe me, I thought the same way until a few years ago when my family and I finally made the switch over to whole wheat pasta for good. Truth be told, it wasn’t a smooth transition.
My husband was skeptical about the “whole” thing (as was I, but I never let him see that) and my kids were less than enthusiastic. But, I knew this was a change we had to make…for our health. We were eating pasta once, sometimes twice, a week and for my kids it was a go-to meal when they were going through the annoying “I don’t like this” stage, which I’m still waiting to pass…but that’s not the point. 100% whole wheat anything is better for your health than wheat that has been processed (white). In white pasta, there is little to no fiber and the nutrients that were removed during processing have to be added back in (which doesn’t give you the same benefits). And no, I haven’t jumped on the “wheat (grain) is the devil” bandwagon yet and doubt I ever will. I’ve been in this field long enough to know that demonizing any food group is usually a bad idea (unless, of course, your specific medical condition warrants it).
In the process, I’ve tried several brands of whole wheat pasta, some much better than others. As a compromise with my kids, I do offer white pasta occasionally. But the difference now is that white pasta tastes foreign and blah (unless, it’s an exceptionally crafted egg fettucine pasta imported straight from Italy-HELLO!!). So, what’s my favorite brand you ask? DeCecco! We all love it! In fact, when I use DeCecco, my kids don’t even realize they are eating whole wheat pasta. Score!
Seriously though, small changes like this, over time can have a significant impact on your health. As always, being smart about the ingredients you choose makes all the difference. Since we are in February, and it is American Heart Month, I’m also trying to bring some attention in my posts to sodium (salt) and some simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Canned tomatoes can have up to 1,000mg or more of sodium per 28 0z. can! Switching to a lower sodium, or no sodium brand (such as Pomi) can make a big difference. Adding just a little bit of salt to your food while it’s cooking is often essential in bringing out flavor without having to overdo it. It’s better that you be in control.
- 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
- 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
- 1 carrot (very finely chopped)
- 1 celery stalk (very finely chopped)
- 1/2 small onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup sliced and pitted kalamata or black olives
- 2 tbsp. capers (rinsed)
- kosher salt
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large deep sauté pan. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add in crushed tomatoes and a dash of kosher salt (only if using no sodium tomatoes). Bring to gentle boil then simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. Add in olives and capers in the last 5 minutes of cooking. In meantime, boil and generously salt water for pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and add directly to sauce. Toss to combine and let sit at least a few minutes to absorb flavors. Serve and top the dish with grated parmesan cheese, fresh basil and drizzle with olive oil.