By Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD
Pasta - undoubtedly versatile - receives its well-earned recognition each year on October 17th. It has been nourishing people for centuries, going far back into Chinese, Greek, and Italian history. The first US industrial pasta factory was built in 1884 in Brooklyn.
Its versatility is due to the numerous shapes, mild flavor, and slightly chewy texture. Common shapes found in supermarkets include shell, elbow macaroni, angel hair, spaghetti, lasagna, bow tie, fettuccine, fusilli, noodles, orzo, penne, rigatoni, ravioli, alphabet pasta, ziti, gnocchi, etc. (https://sharethepasta.org/pasta-shapes)
The flavor of classic white (refined wheat) pasta is mild compared to the slightly nutty flavor of whole wheat pasta. Refined wheat pasta is fortified with 3 major B vitamins.
Whereas whole wheat pasta has many nutritional benefits packaged in the grain’s kernel, which is removed in processing white flour. For this reason, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making at least half of one’s grain intake whole grains for their nutrient density.
Since gluten helps pasta maintain its shape, gluten-free pasta has a different texture and generally shorter cooking time. To avoid easily overcooking, carefully follow the instructions on the package. Fortunately, it’s interchangeable in most recipes.
Pasta is the perfect blank slate for loading up on vegetables, smaller amounts of meat, poultry, or cheese, and lesser-eaten foods emphasized in the Mediterranean eating pattern. Pasta dishes are an ideal opportunity to slip in legumes and lesser-eaten vegetables. Experiment in recognition of National Pasta Day!
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These recipes include many Med approach, minimally processed ingredients:
Shopping tip: King Soopers carries Kroger brand whole wheat wide egg noodles for the Mediterranean Potato Soup recipe.
Did you know: research shows that eating pasta is linked to a higher intake of total vegetables?
Did you know: ridged pasta shapes are better suited for holding sauce?
About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:
Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.
Help seniors flourish by reconnecting them—as recipients and contributors—with their surrounding communities.