I don’t know what happened to revolutionize the way whole wheat pasta is produced, but something must have. It’s evolved, in my opinion, from a heavy, grainy-tasting, fall-apart-if-you-slightly-overcook-it punishment for eating healthy into a delicious food that my whole family enjoys.
I decided a few years ago that when it came to pasta, I’d stick with flavor over nutrition and use regular semolina or rice pasta for those rare times when I cook pasta. Then I started following Weight Watchers’ Core program, which allows limited amounts of whole wheat pasta, and I decided to give it one last try. To my surprise, the newer ww pastas are lighter and less starchy than the dark whole wheat pasta I used to buy from the bulk bin of the health food store, and instead of tasting chalky or grainy, they’re either pleasantly bland or slightly nutty (which actually works well with heartier sauces and seasonings). My daughter no longer complains when I use whole wheat pasta–in fact, she doesn’t seem to notice at all. I still consider pasta an occasional treat, but I no longer feel like I have to give it up completely–or suffer through arrabbiata that tastes like cardboard!
If you haven’t given whole wheat pasta a try recently, give it another chance. If you’re not sure which brand to buy, check out this taste test of 5 of the better whole wheat pastas.
A nuttier-tasting whole wheat pasta will work well with this recipe, with its flavorful roasted peppers and highly-seasoned vegan sausage. I’ve been craving vegan sausage for a while, and I finally got around to making up an Italian version of the Irish sausages I made around St. Patrick’s Day. Both recipes were inspired by Julie Hasson, whose steaming method produces the most tender gluten sausages I’ve ever made. Of course, if you make this pasta with packaged sausage rather than homemade, you’ll be able to get this dish on the dinner table in under a half hour…but I think you’ll be missing out on some seriously good sausages!
Pasta with Peppers and Sausage
- 1/2 recipe Italian Fauxsages (below) or 10-12 ounces other vegan sausage, sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
- 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
- 8 ounces whole wheat rotini
- 1/2 cup red onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 8 basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Spray a baking sheet lightly with olive oil, put it into the oven and preheat to 450F. Once it’s heated, spread the peppers on one half of the sheet and the sausages on the other. Give them a quick spray of olive oil. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the peppers just begin to get charred along the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm.
- While the peppers are cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, remove one cup of the cooking liquid and reserve it. Drain the pasta, toss it with the peppers and sausage, cover, and keep warm.
- Spray a medium-sized saucepan lightly with olive oil and heat it on medium-high. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they soften, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomato, garlic, and red pepper and cook for another two minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced fresh basil, and add salt and black pepper to taste. Toss with the pasta to coat lightly, adding additional pasta liquid to moisten, if necessary. Serve immediately.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 331 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (8% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 441mg Sodium; 8g Fiber.
Italian Fauxsages (Seitan Sausages)
- 1 vegan bouillon cube
- 1/3 cup oatmeal (rolled or quick oats, uncooked)
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked salt (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds
- 1 cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Dissolve the bouillon cube in 2 tablespoons of boiling water and set aside to cool. Put the oatmeal into a blender and pulse to chop coarsely.
- Place the oatmeal into a large bowl and add the remaining dry ingredients, wheat gluten through flax seeds, stirring well to distribute the seasonings evenly. Mix the bouillon mixture with the cool water in a large measuring cup or bowl and add the garlic, tahini, and soy sauce. Whisk or blend with a hand blender until ingredients are well-distributed.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir to mix just until evenly moistened. Add a little more water if it seems too dry.
- Place a piece of aluminum foil on the counter, and scoop 1/2 cup of gluten mixture onto it. Shape into a rough tube, fold the bottom edge of the foil over the gluten, and roll up. Roll the tube back and forth, pressing lightly with your hands, to give it an even shape, and then twist the ends closed. Repeat with the remaining gluten to form 5 sausages.
- Place all the sausages in the top of a steamer, cover, and steam for 40 minutes. Remove them from the heat and let cool (refrigerating will make them firmer). Fauxsages can then be used in recipes as-is, but baking or pan-frying lightly will make them firmer and browner.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Makes 4 servings. Per serving (with tahini): 205 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat; (20% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 821mg Sodium; 3g Fiber.