Product Snapshot: Barilla whole grain penne pasta

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 14 April 2014.
Tagged: healthy cooking, healthy eating, Product snapshot, whole grains

Product Snapshot: Barilla whole grain penne pasta

From breakfast cereals to breads, I’m a big fan of eating whole grains but when it comes to pasta, whole grain or high-fibre versions have been, well, pretty dreadful. In the past, I’ve cooked up pastas that have been dark, thick and heavy. They made eating feel like hard work. Any time I’d try and sneak them past the husband, he’d pick them straight away.

So Barilla’s latest effort is a pleasing improvement in taste and texture from these heavy-duty pastas of days gone by – a feat of food technology that I’d expect from their on-pack boast that they are ‘Italy’s No 1 brand of pasta’.

Source of whole grain and fibre

Barilla wholegrain penne regular

Barilla’s whole grain duo – the penne and spaghetti - derive their whole grain content from a blend of whole wheat durum flour and oat fibre. There’s also the traditional semolina as well as regular durum flour (think white flour).

Barilla – mercifully - hasn’t tried to make it 100 per cent wholegrain as the ones in the past have done. Rather they’ve gone for a get-it-over-the-line tactic so they only claim 51 per cent whole grain which means the pasta is much more acceptable in mouth feel.

It also boasts a high 10 per cent fibre which is on a par with breakfast biscuits, many mueslis, dates and prunes.

Compared to the white, the whole grain penne looks browner as do all whole grain breads or cereals but if you cook it a little longer, it cooks up to the same pleasant texture. It contains around three times more fibre than ordinary white pasta as well as more minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorus) and B vitamins (thiamin, folate).

Stronger flavour, stronger sauces

Team this pasta with robust sauces based on olives, pesto, meat sauces, mussels, artichoke hearts, spinach, walnuts or pistachios and you won’t be disappointed.

In the US where this penne is made, Barilla have more varieties such as Longs - think spaghetti (both regular and thin) -  Angel Hair and Linguine (which is a big fave of mine) and other Shorts such as Elbows, Medium Shells and Rotini (corkscrews).

In Australia we have to content ourselves with just the penne and the spaghetti for now. If they become popular then no doubt they’ll expand the range.

Nutrition figures from the label

Per 100g uncooked

1456kJ (348 Cals), 13g protein, 2.5g fat (including 0.5g saturated fat), 62.5g carbohydrate (including 3.5g sugars), 10g fibre, 15mg sodium as well as iron, magnesium, phosphorus.

Ingredients from the label

Whole grain durum wheat flour, semolina (wheat), durum wheat flour, oat fiber.

(Note US spelling as this product is made in USA where their labelling laws are more similar to ours than in Italy)

The bottom line

Pleasant al dente eating with a mild nuttiness that doesn’t scream ‘grainy’. Here’s another new product that helps us eat more whole grains and more fibre, which, as Australians, we don’t eat enough of. Yes there are other whole grain pastas but these two make it easy to swap from regular (white) penne.

PROs

  • Convenient way to boost your whole grains for their health benefits
  • Convenient way to boost your fibre without bran or cereal
  • Smaller 375g pack size, down from the usual 500g, so easier to store in small kitchens
  • Good texture
  • Cooks and performs just like any other pasta
  • Available in supermarkets and Italian supermarkets.

CONs

  • Darker colour - may be refused by picky eaters
  • Costs 50 per cent per kilogram more than the regular pasta

 

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.