Over the last five years or so, whole-wheat pasta has become a fixture in light cooking. Admittedly, it's slightly healthier than durum-based pasta and pairs well with earthier ingredients like eggplant and spinach. But nine times out of ten, I prefer non-wheatie ziti (or rotini or capellini) as it's more versatile and better-tasting, not to mention a buck cheaper per box. As for the fiber issue, I figure I’ll get it elsewhere. Like say, from fruit or chewing on a piece of furniture.
However, there’s still that 10 percent of recipes where whole-wheat pasta works exceptionally well. Turkey Sausage and Arugula Pasta from Eating Well is one of them. Instead of acting as a blank canvas on which to pile vegetables, the whole-wheat pasta has a slightly nutty flavor and firm texture that goes well with the peppery greens and bright, sweet tomatoes. Everything’s topped off with a subtle, low-fat Parmesan sauce, which adds moisture and wonderful cheesiness without too many extra calories.
A note about that sauce: I considered mixing everything and then dousing it all in the parmesan concoction together, but went with the recipe and sauced the rotini, only. In retrospect, it was the better choice—the arugula wouldn’t have survived the ordeal. If you're tempted to do the same, don't. Seriously. Bad idea.
In the end, when it comes to whole-wheat pasta, I go by this rule of thumb: I buy it only if it will add to a dish's flavor, not for the health benefits. Both my food and my wallet are happier that way.
- 12 ounces whole-wheat short pasta, such as shells or twists
- 8 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage links, removed from casings
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 cups arugula or baby spinach
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender, 9 to 11 minutes, or according to package directions.
Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, arugula (or spinach) and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.
Combine 1/2 cup cheese, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Measure out 1/2 cup of the (hot) cooking liquid; drain the pasta. Whisk the cooking liquid and oil into the cheese mixture; add the pasta and toss to combine. Serve the pasta topped with the sausage mixture and an extra sprinkle of cheese, if desired.