Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ad of the Week: Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta

New World Pasta now owns most of the regional pasta brands with which we grew up: American Beauty, Creamette, Prince, and Skinner, to name a few. Nostalgia moment: I totally recognized the Skinner package from when I was a kid in Texas.

Ronzoni Smart Taste is a new product at New World Pasta. "It's the first white pasta to be enriched with fiber and calcium," according to their website. They also say it's lower in calories and fat than traditional pasta. I'm not sure what that means, because none of the pasta whose ingredients I looked at showed any fat in the first place.

I'm a little confused about the fiber and calcium. "Three times the fiber and calcium equal to an eight-ounce glass of milk." This is one of the most grammatically ambiguous sentences I have ever seen. Is it three times the fiber and calcium equal to a glass of milk? There's no fiber in milk, that I am aware. Or is it three times the fiber, plus calcium equal to the milk? If that's it, then three times the fiber of what?

But that's just clouding the issue, which is this: If one is eating a healthy diet with a variety of foods, then one shouldn't need to have any of their foods enriched with anything else. Who in their right mind would think it a good thing to be getting their calcium from their spaghetti and meatballs? If your child (for whom the calcium is intended) isn't getting enough calcium in his or her diet, then just give them more milk or some yogurt. There are better ways to get calcium into your child than pumping calcium phosphate into pasta. Just put some cheese over the damn pasta and there's your calcium right there.

Let's take a closer look at the ingredients (you knew I would). It looks like fiber (in what form? from where?) and calcium aren't the only extras in this product:
INGREDIENTS: Semolina (wheat), Durum Flour (Wheat), Modified Wheat Starch, Calcium Phosphate, Niacin, Iron (Ferrous Sulfate), Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid.
It looks like most of these items either replace what one would find in a whole wheat pasta, or add things (like calcium) that would not (should not?) be in regular pasta.

So what are the ingredients in the Bella Terra Organic brand of whole wheat pasta I usually use? I just knew you'd ask:
100% Certified Organic Hard Amber Durum Whole Wheat
Hmmmm. I am just now noticing that it is called "macaroni product" instead of pasta. I'll have to investigate that.

Before you go all "Eeeeewwwww, whole wheat pasta" on me, let me tell you that I, too, had that reaction when first I tried it. I bought some bulk whole wheat spaghetti (feeling very crunchy and righteous, let me tell you) at the original Whole Foods in Austin in the early '80s, whipped up a batch of spaghetti sauce, boiled up the spaghetti, and loaded both onto my plate.

And threw the whole thing away. It was chewy, gummy, and doughy and not at all like the pasta I was expecting. I didn't go near it for years.

But when I decided to eat whole foods back in 2000, I realized I was going to have to revisit whole wheat pasta. I don't remember the first one I tried, either the brand or the type, but it was one of the short pastas - rotini, penne, or farfalle. I tried a lighter sauce of just garlic, tomatoes, thyme and basil, and it was delicious. The pasta was chewy, yes, but neither gummy nor doughy. It was firm and nutty, and matched the flavorful sauce bite for bite.

For years, I only used whole wheat short pasta. For spaghetti, capellini, or fettuccine, I stuck to white pasta. But a couple of years ago it was on sale, so I decided maybe it was time to try it again. And you know what? It worked. I've used tomato-based sauces, peanut sauces, and I even made a chicken tetrazzini that rocked.

I will say that whole wheat pasta is one of the few things that doesn't replace white pasta. Many of my friends have told me that, in spite of their best intentions, they just can't make the switch from white pasta to whole wheat. I agree, they just do not taste the same. So I have found new dishes to make with whole wheat pasta that I enjoy immensely. But when I want spaghetti and meatballs, gnocchi, or fettucine Alfredo, semolina is definitely the way to go. And it's always a treat to savor the handmade pasta one can find at many of the fine restaurants in the Chicago area.

But I can't think of any reason to use Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta. All of those extra additions seem neither smart nor tasty to me.


Anonymous said...

We still have to make that Caputo's visit. Their house brand pasta is delicious and dirt cheap (and made for them in Italy) for when you decide you need long noodles.

dejamo said...

Yes, I definitely want to see Caputo's!

And it should come as no surprise to you that I am thinking about making my own pasta :)

Anonymous said...

Not at all. Actually Misterreall has talked about doing that too.

dejamo said...

Oh good! Maybe we can compare notes.

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