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What is Whole Wheat Pasta?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Feb 27, 2024

Whole wheat pasta is pasta that has been made with whole wheat flour, meaning that the flour includes the bran and germ in addition to the endosperm of the wheat. This pasta is higher in fiber and nutrients than pasta made with white flour, and it has a markedly different texture and flavor. Some people find that it is not to their taste, thanks to the strong flavor, because this pasta does not play well with all pasta sauces. Consumers often choose whole wheat as a healthier alternative to conventional pasta, although the differences between the two are sometimes minimal, while others simply like the flavor.

Most markets carry whole wheat pasta, typically in a range of shapes and sizes. Whole wheat spaghetti is a common option, but pasta shapes like penne are also available, as are other flat noodles. It is also possible to this pasta at home, replacing all or part of the flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour and then making the pasta as one would normally.

Regular pasta is made with flour ground from the endosperm of the wheat alone, with the bran and germ being discarded. This results in a smoother product with a more mild taste. In the case of whole wheat pasta, the pasta has a strongly nutty flavor from the bran and germ of the wheat, and it can be grainy or gritty, depending on how well the flour was processed. It can also be tricky to cook, as it is more likely to fall apart during the cooking process. It is important to simmer the pasta, rather than aggressively boiling it, or it will start to break up in the cooking pot.

In addition to whole wheat, it is also possible to find multigrain pasta, which may use several grains in addition to or instead of wheat. Multigrain pasta tends to be even more high in fiber and nutrients, thanks to the diverse grains used, and it can include a variety of grains from spelt to rye. For people who eat a gluten-free diet, multigrain pasta is sometimes gluten-free, although reading the label closely is a very good idea.

The important thing to remember when working with whole wheat pasta is that it has a very strong flavor. Delicate sauces do not pair well with it because they will be overwhelmed by the pasta, and watery sauces are also not a good idea. Instead, cooks should use hearty, chunky sauces that will be complemented by a nutty flavor. Some cooks also enjoy using it in Asian cuisine, throwing it into stir fries, curries, and other noodle dishes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon311752 — On Jan 03, 2013

@feruze: If you're looking for whole wheat pasta with good flavor and texture, try Gia Russa brand. If you can't find it at your market, you can buy it on the web site named after the river.

By fify — On Dec 18, 2012

@feruze-- I don't think it tastes that bad but if you're not used to eating it, it might take you some time to adjust.

You can try mixing regular and whole wheat pasta for a while until you get used to the flavor more. Also, I suggest making whole wheat pasta with pasta sauces to make it taste better.

I'm sure you'll get used to it in no time, don't give up on it. It really is healthier than regular pasta.

By SarahGen — On Dec 17, 2012

Which is better-- Ronzoli, Barilla or Healthy Harvest whole wheat pasta?

They all cost basically the same and the ingredients are same. Does it matter which brand I get?

By bear78 — On Dec 16, 2012

I don't like whole wheat pasta. It doesn't taste good. It's so bland, it tastes like grass.

I want to eat healthier but I just can't get myself to eat this stuff. I wish they would make whole wheat pasta that tastes better.

By andee — On Nov 04, 2012

@SarahSon -- That is a good idea. I got all excited about whole wheat pasta and thought my family would be too. I was wrong. None of them liked it and wanted the pasta they were used to eating.

It also might be easier to start out with some whole wheat angel hair pasta mixed in with spaghetti. Since this is a thin pasta, the taste might not be as strong and blend in better.

I want my family to eat whole wheat pasta because I think it is much healthier for you than regular pasta. I also read it doesn't spike your blood sugar as much and has more protein and fiber.

By SarahSon — On Nov 04, 2012

@julies -- I liked whole wheat pasta the very first time I tried it, but I know not everyone does. One thing I did with my family is introduce whole wheat pasta gradually. I started out using a little bit of wheat pasta mixed in with the regular pasta. Each time I made pasta after that I would add a little bit more of the whole wheat pasta. Now all I ever use is whole wheat pasta, and everyone eats it and they even ask for seconds.

By julies — On Nov 04, 2012

I recently replaced regular pasta in one of my recipes with whole wheat penne pasta. This is the only thing I did different and my husband didn't care for it at all. He ate it, but I know he really wished I had stuck with the regular pasta.

I also noticed the difference in taste but kind of liked the nuttier flavor. I don't know if this is something you acquire a taste for, or if most people like whole wheat pasta the first time they try it.

By sunshined — On Nov 03, 2012

@BAU79 -- I am pleased to see more choices for whole wheat pasta on the menu at restaurants. This has become my pasta of choice and I like the fact that I can easily find this when I eat out. Several years ago you would have never seen this on a menu, and if you had, very few people would have ordered it.

By BAU79 — On Oct 24, 2012

It seems like whole wheat pasta noodles are showing up on the menus of more and more Italian restaurants. Just 20 years ago you wouldn't ever see that.

By clippers — On Oct 23, 2012

Does anyone have any experience making their own whole wheat pasta? Do you have to do anything different than you would normally do with white flour pasta?

I tried making some whole wheat pasta dough a few weeks ago but it was so dry and heavy that I couldn't work with it at all. I had to throw the whole batch away. Clearly I messed something up, but I haven't been able to figure out what.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 23, 2012
One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that just because you eat whole wheat pasta doesn't mean you can stuff yourself with pasta. If you want to lose weight you still need to eat less pasta than you would normally, no matter what kind of pasta it is.
By widget2010 — On Jan 24, 2011

If you can find a good recipe for the dough, homemade whole wheat pasta can actually be a pretty easy thing to make as well. It could also be cost effective, since many whole wheat pasta in the stores can be fairly costly; it can be a really fun option if you really enjoy working creatively in the kitchen.

By BambooForest — On Jan 23, 2011

I love whole wheat pasta. Ever since I first started eating it, I have just not felt like refined flour pastas had the same flavor to them; it also helps that whole wheat pasta, because of its higher fiber content, makes me feel fuller and healthier as well. There are many brands that make it these days, so you can buy whole wheat pasta in almost any grocery store.

By obsessedwithloopy — On Aug 03, 2009

It is said that a protein found in whole wheat pasta helps lower blood pressure.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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