Desperation dinners : Whole-grain products boost nutrition

We've made the switch to whole-grain bread, but we're still having a problem switching to whole-grain pasta.
Eat more whole grains! We hear it everywhere these days. We've made the switch to whole-grain bread, but we're still having a problem switching to whole-grain pasta. Fact is, until just recently, our biggest complaint was the taste and texture. Some of the pasta that we've tried tasted like we might as well be eating the box.

Manufacturers heard consumer complaints and are developing "tastier" whole-grain products, so check them out. Here are a couple of tips to make the conversion easier to swallow.

  • Begin with substituting one-quarter of whole-grain pasta mixed in with regular pasta. Work your way up to a higher percentage each time you serve pasta. Soon your family will be accustomed to the new look, feel and taste.


  • Look for products that are high in fiber. Some brands boast as much as three times more fiber than their regular-pasta counterparts.


  • Look for fresh, refrigerated whole-grain pasta. Its texture tends to be softer than dried pasta. Follow the package directions carefully to avoid over- or undercooking. National brand Buitoni features a whole-wheat four-cheese ravioli that is a favorite with kids.


  • If your regular supermarket doesn't carry whole-grain pasta, ask you grocery manager to order it. National brands such as Hodgson Mill and Creamette both have lines that include whole-grain pasta and pasta with whole-grain blends.


  • Use assertively flavored sauces when you are first converting to whole-grain pasta, such as today's recipe for Simple Italian Sausage Spaghetti Sauce.
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Grocery brands can be extremely regional, and what we may be able to find in our hometowns might not be the same as what's available in yours. However, by using these tips, you will have a more successful trial period until you get to know the brands available in your area.

Adding more whole grains to your diet everywhere you can just makes sense. Since pasta is a menu staple, it's the next obvious place to turn.

Simple Italian sausage spaghetti dinner

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 20 minutes

  • 8 ounces whole-grain thin spaghetti (see Cook's note)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion (for about 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 1/2 pound mild or hot Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup red or dry white wine
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 ounces) no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook's note: The nutritional analysis is based on eight ounces of whole-grain thin spaghetti. This sauce is delicious over any blend of whole-grain and regular pasta or all regular pasta. Only the analysis will change. For testing purposes, we used Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Thin Spaghetti.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 4 1/2-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Peel and finely chop onion, adding to pan as chopped. Remove casings from sausage (if necessary), and crumble sausage into pan. Stir and cook, breaking up sausage, until sausage is cooked through and onion is tender, about five minutes.

Add wine to pan and stir to loosen any brown bits on bottom. Add canned tomatoes and juice, tomato paste, garlic, sugar and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in Parmesan cheese and continue to cook until pasta is ready. (Sauce can simmer on low for up to 30 minutes, if necessary.)

Serve over hot, cooked pasta.

Per serving: 433 cal. (23 percent from fat), 12 g fat (4 g saturated), 20 mg choles., 20 g pro., 63 g carbo., 11 g dietary fiber and 558 mg sodium.


Send desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com. You can e-mail Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross at bev-alicia@desperationdinners.com

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