I've been on a quest to reduce my animal protein consumption and add more healthful grains to my daily meal repertoire. Although my normal diet is made up of a combination of fresh vegetables, fruits, and animal proteins; most of my meals tend to be centered around some form of meat. My goal is to make a dietary shift away from so much meat and move to more whole grain foods which will help increase the fiber in my diet and at the same time lead to the killing of fewer animals on my behalf. Clearly I am an "omnivore". I do enjoy eating meat but as a culture I think we should work towards killing fewer animals by reducing our consumption to reasonable limits--a win win for us, health wise and for the animals. Of course that is a personal choice but a concept worth being open to if you are an all "meat and potatoes" kind of eater.
Naturally my search for a main-course alternative lead me to pasta; a food I've shunned for years now, given its high glycemic index, high concentration of calories, and low fiber content. However; the grocery shelves are now laden with varieties of high-fiber whole grain pastas so it is a good time to venture forth and give them a try. Actually I tried whole wheat spaghetti a couple of years ago but the experience was not a good one. The pasta was dry, crumbly and tasted like a mouth full of straw. Based on that experience I steered clear of whole wheat pastas until recently when I decided to try again.
Our chart provides an overview of some good quality whole wheat pastas as well as some other, higher fiber, alternative grain pastas. While the fiber and protein content is pretty similar with the pure whole wheat pasta it tends to be less for the alternative grain pastas. Our favorites brands are Bionaturae and Gia Russa. The Cooks Illustrated article (see sources) voted the first three the pastas in the chart below as their top picks.
Note: The last item on the list is a typical white, semolina pasta, shown as a comparison.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. As soon as it is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Don't overcook the pasta.
Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add garlic and cook about 1 minute then add the chopped onions and Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Break the sausage meat apart and add to pan and stir to cook; about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook; about another 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in cream and the Parmesan cheese.
Place the pasta in a serving bowl; top with the sauce and toss gently to combine. Pass additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
Cooks Illustrated suggested a few recipes (March Issue, 2010) that focused on vegetables such as fennel, asparagus and zucchini but suggested steering clear of acidic tomato based sauces or pestos. I've experimented with both and my pallet may simply be less discerning but I enjoyed them all. Here are our suggestions:
Add cooked greens including rapini (broccoli rabe), kale or Swiss chard. The greens should be lightly simmered first, drained then chopped.