When last year’s whole wheat spaghetti tasting turned up more than one pasta that offered pleasantly nutty flavor and tender-firm chew, we wondered if the trend extended to noodle shapes like lasagna.
Published Sept. 1, 2011. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 12: Vegetarian Pasta Night
When last year’s whole wheat spaghetti tasting turned up more than one pasta that offered pleasantly nutty flavor and tender-firm chew, we wondered if the trend extended to noodle shapes like lasagna. We sampled four national brands—three made from 100 percent whole wheat flour and one a whole wheat/white flour blend—plain and baked in our Vegetable Lasagna.
We thought the most important factor driving our preferences would be the type of lasagna noodle: Three of the samples were traditional noodles that must be cooked before layering into the casserole, while the fourth was a no-boil product. Our recipes typically call for no-boil noodles (which are precooked and dehydrated before packaging) because we find their thinner, more delicate texture closer to that of fresh pasta. They’re also a cinch to work with.
As it turned out, we thought wrong: Tasters’ likes and dislikes were mainly grouped around wheat flavor. As they had during the spaghetti tasting, tasters panned noodles that were too gritty and cardboard-y. But pasta that too closely resembled the white kind—including the no-boil lasagna—wasn’t their top pick either. Our champ turned out to be none other than our whole wheat spaghetti winner. Tasters appreciated this brand’s complex flavor and substantial chew so much that they were willing to put up with the extra step of boiling the traditional noodles.
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