In the Atkins era, a plate of pasta was considered an evil entrée.
But with the USDA's new emphasis on whole grains, noodles made from whole wheat, buckwheat, quinoa and spelt are back at the center of the plate.
A diet rich in whole grains reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, yet the USDA reports only 7 percent of Americans eat the recommended three servings a day, while 42 percent eat no whole grains at all.
Until recently whole grains made up only 10 percent of the typical supermarket, according to theWhole Grains Council
. In the last year, bread bakers and pasta/cereal/snack makers have added more whole-grain or multigrain products to supermarket shelves.
Whole-grain pastas were once considered chewier and grittier than traditional versions made with refined white flour, but the reformulated varieties generally have a lighter, nuttier, less-gummy flavor. In some cases, cooking times have been reduced.
Nutritionally speaking, whole-grain pasta has 25 percent more protein and at least three times more fiber.
For The Star's Multigrain Pasta Tuna Salad, we used a multigrain rotini with 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Additional ingredients boost the recipe to 7 grams per serving.
The pasta salad is tossed with water-packed tuna, an excellent source of omega-3; antioxidant-rich red peppers; and artichokes, a source of vitamin A.
Shopping tip: For testing purposes, we used Heartland Multi Grain rotini made by American Italian Pasta Co. The Kansas City-based company is the largest producer and packager of dry pasta in North America.
The cooking time for this multigrain pasta is just 6 to 8 minutes, comparable to conventional white pasta.
Be sure to read the label and cook according to package directions.
With pasta, portion size is often difficult to judge. One serving is 1/2 cup, cooked, or about the size of a baseball.Multigrain Pasta Tuna Salad
Makes 6 servings2 cups multigrain rotini 1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts 1/2 cup sliced celery 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 1 (12-ounce) can solid white albacore tuna packed in water, drained 1 (7.25-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped 1/2 cup fat-free peppercorn ranch dressing 1/3 cup dry roasted cashews or peanuts Romaine leaves, optional
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water. Place pasta in large bowl.
Place artichoke hearts in microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high (100 percent) power 4 minutes. Place cooked artichoke hearts on paper towels to drain well. Coarsely chop, then add to pasta. Add remaining ingredients, except cashews and romaine leaves. Cover and chill for several hours.
To serve, line bowls with romaine leaves if desired; spoon salad over lettuce. Sprinkle with cashews or peanuts.Per serving: 266 calories (17 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 34 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 432 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.