Now that I have had an opportunity to actually taste the Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta noodles I have to say, they are fantastic! While it is true that I am a pasta fiend, meaning I love pasta, I can honestly say that the Ancient Grains pasta is an excellent pasta.
The difference between Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta and other pastas is that the Ancient Grains pasta is made from whole grain durum wheat semolina, and a whole grain flour blend made up of quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum and teff.
People have been talking about the health benefits of eating 100 per cent whole grain wheat for years, but the “new” ancient grains that are being re-discovered are even more healthy. Here is a little more on each of those “new” ancient grains:
Quinoa: Dating back to the 13th century South American Inca Empire, quinoa is high in fibre, protein and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron – and low on the glycemic index. And not only is it super healthy to eat, the slightly nutty flavour is an excellent addition to any meal.
Amaranth: Native to the Americas and prized by Aztec civilization, amaranth is rich in protein, containing all the essential amino acids, key vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron.
Teff: Originating in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE, this poppy seed-sized grain is high in protein, fibre, calcium, thiamin and iron. We have been experimenting with using Teff in our test kitchen in our gluten-free flour mixes.
Sorghum: Domesticated in Northeastern Africa more than 5,000 years ago, sorghum – a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and magnesium – is known to support digestive health, help fight cardiovascular disease and help control blood sugar levels.
Millet: Cultivated 4,000 years ago from wild West African grass, this nutty-flavoured grain is known to be heart healthy, containing a high level of protein, magnesium and niacin. Alkalizing to the body, millet is considered one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available.
Chef Lynn Crawford was kind enough to provide me with her top ten tips on how to prepare whole grain pasta – this is not to say that you and I don’t already know how to prepare pasta but these are her top ten pasta cooking tips:
- Watch your cooking time: Pasta should be cooked according to the cook time guide on the package to achieve the ideal al dente texture. For a professional twist, cut one to two minutes off the suggested cooking time, drain and finish off cooking your pasta in the sauce.
- Skip the oil: There is no need to add oil to your cooking water. Despite popular belief, this actually takes away from the pasta’s final texture and ability to adhere to the sauce. Skip the oil and embrace the starchiness of your pasta.
- Water your pasta: When cooking pasta, use a large pot. As basic as it sounds, it will make a difference in the outcome of your pasta. You will need one litre of water to about 100 grams of pasta. Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and help keep the noodles from sticking together.
- Think salty sea: Add a generous amount of sea salt to the boiling water to ensure your pasta is well seasoned. You may even want to taste the water before adding your pasta to make sure there is enough salt.
- Avoid rinsing: For hot pasta dishes, never rinse the pasta after cooking in order to retain the starch and enable warm sauces to better adhere to the pasta.
- Create the perfect pair: Delicate pasta shapes go well with delicate sauces, and heartier, ridged shapes pair well with richer sauces and ragus. For example, try long thin pasta, such as spaghetti, with a classic marinara sauce. Penne, ziti or rigatoni lend themselves to thicker sauces with more texture, such as a ragu Bolognese.
- Embrace the texture: Whole grain pasta has a hearty, firm texture that’s perfect for cold or chilled recipes and marinates well in tangy dressings. The firmness of the noodles also provides a good base for both crunchy and juicy fresh vegetables.
- Top it off: With a nutty, rich flavour, whole grain pasta can take on other strong, complex flavours. Ingredients that pair well with whole grain pasta include garlic, chili, anchovies, rich pesto sauces, and bitter or dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard and radicchio.
- Take the heat: When preparing hot pasta recipes, keep your serving plates or bowls warm in an oven set to a low temperature until you’re ready to serve. This will ensure that your final dish stays nice and hot.
- Crank up the flavour: Whole grain pasta is an easy base on which to build a healthy and delicious meal. Incorporate a lean protein, plenty of fresh vegetables, and seasoning with big flavours in the pasta for an even more nutritious and satisfying dish.
That’s it for today – tomorrow the fun will really begin! Chef Lynn Crawford has kindly supplied me with a recipe for Spaghetti with Zucchini, Lemon, Olives and Goat Cheese and I have arranged to get my hands on a year’s supply of Catelli pasta (60 boxes of it) to give away to one of my lucky readers. Check in tomorrow for details on how you can enter my pasta contest giveaway.