So I must admit, we are a pasta loving family. Pasta is a wonderful base because you add so much to it. It’s almost like a blank canvas. Throw in some veggies, a little meat and a yummy sauce and you have the perfect one-bowl meal.
Since we eat a lot of pasta, I have been looking for some alternative and healthier versions rather than the typical white pasta. We eat quinoa spaghetti quite often and the kids like it especially if it’s topped with pesto or my bolognaise sauce. I have always wanted to try whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta but was worried how the kids would react. I aim to make one meal (no short order cook here) for dinner and I want us all to enjoy it so I have to always think about what the kids will really eat. Luckily my kids are not super picky eaters. They eat a variety of foods because we serve them a variety. You have to set an example as a parent and if you’re not eating veggies or trying new things then your kids will not do it.
I found this recipe at Cooks Illustrated and was excited to try it as it incorporated 2 things that I have never used before, whole-wheat pasta and fennel. I have eaten fennel before, but have never cooked with it. We have a veggie every day so I wanted to add some blanched broccolini to our pasta. You don’t have to add broccolini to this dish, but it really is the perfect vegetable to serve with this type of pasta and makes it a one-bowl meal, and who doesn’t love that.
This pasta is a wonderful combination of flavors. The sausage adds a certain spiciness (not to spicy though) to the dish and the pine nuts add a nice crunch and buttery flavor. The whole-wheat pasta has a great nutty and salty flavor and it’s chewy, but in a good way. It doesn’t taste grainy at all. I have had this for leftovers the past week and it gets even better with age as all the flavors have a chance to mesh together.
|This is a photo of the leftovers that I had for lunch.|
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Fennel and broccolini:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 medium garlic cloves, mince and pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8-12 ounces sweet italian sausage, removed from casing - I actually just buy up a 12oz package of my favorite sausage links.
- 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored, and sliced thin
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped – I always toast these up ahead of time.
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (see note below)
- 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti – Cooks Illustrated recommended Bionaturae Organic 100 percent whole-wheat spaghetti because of it’s nutty flavor and chewy texture. We really loved this pasta.
- 1 to 2 bunches of broccolini
- Pecorino Romano Cheese to top your pasta
Lie the fennel bulb down on its flat side and just slice the fennel crossways.
Once the water has come to a rapid boil, throw in your broccolini and cook until just tender, 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your broccolini.
Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable. There is only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.Transfer broccolini to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon or mesh one like I have. Drain and dry the broccolini; set aside. Bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 3/4-cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.
BTW, you probably want to know the kids rating on this dish right? Zoe rated it a 9 and Eli rated it a 10. John and I rated it a 10 plus.
Have you ever tried whole-wheat pasta? If so, what was your take on it?