Early last year I was told that I should eat more whole grains. I thought it was a good idea, but there was a problem: I eat a ton of pasta. And I mean literally a ton of pasta; I haven’t actually weighed it, but I’m sure that if you added it all up it would be at least a ton. So I set out to find some alternatives. I cooked with grains like spelt, brown rice, and wheat berries. And they were good. Yet I still missed pasta, so I started looking for a whole grain pasta that I liked. I started, naturally, with whole wheat pasta. I tried multiple brands, and multiple cooking methods, but I couldn’t find one that I liked. Beyond Whole Wheat is my search for a pasta alternative.
Back when I first started Beyond Whole Wheat I went out and bought a bunch of different brands of alternative pastas. One of them was this ziti made with spelt, an ancient form of wheat. The ziti was made by a specific company, which I’m not going to name. I’m not going to name them because I found out that their CEO was fighting to avoid having to cover contraception in its employees health plans. So I don’t want to give them any publicity, just keep this focused on the product.
I made a simple vegan dish of ziti with artichokes and escarole, with a little tomato and lemon. The directions for the ziti said to let it cook for 12-14 minutes, which is a pretty long time for pasta, so I started that first. While the pasta boiled I heated some olive oil with some fresh hot chile peppers. When they started to sizzle I added a jar of artichoke hearts (the kind packed in water, not oil, and drained) and seasoned them with salt and pepper. When they started to brown I added some chopped escarole, which I also seasoned. Escarole is a pretty hearty, leafy green, and can stand up to some high heat and long cooking, I highly recommend using it. After the escarole was wilted I added the juice of one lemon, and then I added some canned tomatoes (and seasoned them as well), and then stirred the whole mix together.
At this point the ziti had been cooking for about 11 minutes, so I tested it and found it ready to go. I drained it and added it to the sauce, along with a little bit of the pasta cooking water. I then let it cook together for another minute and then turned off the heat. The texture of the pasta was a little crumbly, and it had a pronounced grain-like flavor. Unlike some of the other pastas I’ve tried, that extra flavor actually added something to the dish instead of conflicting with it. Brown rice pasta is still my go-to, because I prefer the texture, but (politics aside) spelt ziti wasn’t bad.