Whole Wheat vs Regular Pasta

March 3, 2021   29 Comments

Whole wheat pasta versus regular pasta is an easy comparison. It isn’t a stretch to use whole wheat in a product that already uses wheat flour.

Whole Wheat vs Regular Pasta

My son, Alex, loves pasta more than any other food. If I ask him, “What do you want for dinner?” He will say, “PASTA!” even if he ate it for lunch. Seriously.

I want to ensure he is eating his share of whole grains. How about whole wheat pasta? I had dismissed whole wheat pasta as a terrible idea until I spoke with an Italian chef.


He said that what really mattered was what you put on the pasta - not the pasta itself. Two of my favorite recipes for pasta sauce are: lentil pasta sauce and 20 Minute Marinara Sauce.

The Italian chef insisted that imported Italian pasta was the best (or course). Italian pasta is regulated by law (seriously) and must contain 100% durum semolina flour and water. Durum wheat has a very high protein content versus other strains of wheat. Rienzi (above) is an Italian brand.

If you choose Italian pasta versus American pasta - you are getting something that probably tastes better and is a bit better for you. Ronzoni is an American brand that is pretty good.

Does whole wheat pasta taste different than regular pasta? The easiest thing was to do a side by side comparison without sauce. I cooked both batches in salted water, which I think makes pasta sing. I add a full tablespoon of salt to pasta water when I am making a full pound.

I believe the water should taste like sea water when you make pasta. It is optional but I am a fan.

Whole Wheat Pasta Nutrition:

3/4 cup: 180 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 39 g carbohydrates, 2.0 g sugar, 9 g protein, 5 g fiber, 0 mg sodium, 5 Green, 5 Blue, 0 Purple WW SmartPts

The whole wheat pasta has a nutty flavor but a good consistency. It is still soft like regular pasta. Whole wheat pasta tasted almost the same as regular pasta. The flavor wasn’t as different as whole wheat versus regular bread.

Regular Pasta Nutrition:

3/4 cup: 200 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 41 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 7 g protein, 2 g fiber, 0 mg sodium, 5 Green, 5 Blue, 5 Purple WW SmartPts

As you can see, you get more protein and fiber for fewer calories with the whole wheat version.

I found that I didn't notice a difference in the taste of whole wheat pasta after I put a sauce on it. Honestly, you don't notice the flavor of the pasta after you add the other stuff.

And, mysteriously, I ate less of it than the regular pasta. Could it be that the extra 3 grams of fiber filled me up and I felt fuller sooner? I think so!

Some people mix the two pastas together to keep the family happy. Anytime I can add a whole grain and not get complaining - I am happy.

What do you think of whole wheat vs regular pasta? Can you taste a difference?

Other posts you might like:

Lentil Pasta Sauce

his lentil pasta sauce is my kind of recipe. Delicious, inexpensive, and it can be served on just about anything

How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce in 20 Minutes

Do you know how to make homemade marinara sauce in 20 minutes? It is pretty easy but it does involve mincing garlic.....

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We only buy whole wheat pasta these days. It might only be 50% sometimes, but it's still got more body and flavor than the regular stuff. I find now when I go to restaurants and get pasta, it is flat and tasteless compared to what I make at home, even if the sauce is good.

The same thing is true of bread. You get used to the difference after a while, and you miss the whole wheat when it's not there.


Its true.. the stats on whole wheat are great. However, sometimes with a lighter sauce whole wheat can be too dense, so what we do is mix it with half regular and you cant even notice!

Homemade mac & cheese is rediculously easy!

Have you tried using pureed squash as the base for the cheese sauce? My daughter, father and SO haven't noticed the change yet, but I can't let them watch me make it. :) There's a great recipe for it on food network's website somewhere.

Like Courtney above I use some pumpkin puree (it makes the mac and cheese look more like that powdered packaged stuff in the blue box), and I also add creamed cauliflower to the sauce. My family thought I'd added more cheese!

We have eaten ONLY whole wheat pasta for about 6 years now. My 5 year old has never had regular pasta or white rice. She saw white rice for the first time this year at a family members home and thought there was something wrong with it! LOL...same with pasta, saw it at a restaurant and wouldn't touch it. Kids eat the good stuff when that's all they know!! By the way, my 5 and 2 year old LOVED your Acorn squash recipe!! Good stuff!! Thanks for all you do Lisa!

Good info and great comments. I'll give them a try!

I only buy brown rice pasta. It tastes delicious, cooks beautifully, and you can hardly tell the difference! Plus it's very healthy :)

I'd like to know Snack Girl's thoughts on Ronzoni Smart Taste. It's white pasta enriched with fiber. It's been my go to because I don't like the texture of wheat pasta. Wondering where it ranks nutrition wise? Thanks!

I find that wheat pasta is stiffer or firmer or something. I can't get past the texture in my mouth. I don't mind the flavor so much, since mentally I'm a fan of the health improvement more than I hate the flavor. But the texture just bugs me.

I love the comment about the child thinking something was wrong with white rice! I grew up only knowing orange mashed potatoes - my grandma would put carrots and onions in hers, so that's always how we had them growing up. Anyone else's tastes like paste to me! (FYI, even just adding the onion and a little garlic makes all the difference! My sister makes our family recipe without the carrots for get-togethers with her in-laws and they RAVE about her potatoes. Her MIL is not amused.)

And what about Spaghetti Squash? It's a decent pasta swap.

Great article. I don't think many understand the benefit of whole wheat pasta and it has the stigma that it just doesn't taste as good and like you said that isn't necessarily the case.

@Tywana - I like your strategy. Teaching our kids to eat well from day 1 makes a big difference! :)

You should really try a 100% Whole Grain pasta, too. It has 5 grams of fibers and 6 grams of protein per serving. I find the flavor to be delicious and very much like traditional semolina pasta.

While it is true that Italian pasta 100% durum semolina, so are all of the major brands in the US. Plus, major brands are made on Italian presses, just as it is in Italy. The product is not different when talking just straight pasta in a package. (Boxed pasta that comes with sauce or powders is different.) So, it's not any better for you just because it was made in Italy.

I don't like the texture of whole wheat pasta. It's more crumbly. I buy high fiber non-whole-wheat pasta instead (which still has around 7 grams of protein per serving and around triple the fiber of whole wheat) and find it much more palatable as well as less carb-y for the diabetic in my family.

sounds super yummy, will have to try that one

Love Whole Wheat Pasta. One question is why in comes in only certain shapes, penne, shells, linquine or thin spaghetti? Does it cost more to make all the shapes and sizes of white pasta? This is a question I know only Snack Girl can answer.

According to our nation's Congress, if you just dowse your pasta in pizza sauce, it will provide most of the nutrients that children need. :-)

As a college student, I always try to buy whole grain type pastas, not because I like it better (because I don't), but I like to force myself to eat a little bit healthier to offset all the bad things I eat late at night and while I study.

Make sure to get 100% whole wheat or whole grain pasta over pasta that uses wheat flour. Wheat flour is not 100% whole wheat but both wheat and white flour mixed together, which isn't giving you many of the nutrients that the 100% will.

I usally buy Barilla plus with omega3's multigrain pasta it has 4-9 grams of fiber a serving depending which noodle type you get.

@ Leah Grode - Sorry, I'm just catching up reading old posts but wanted to respond if you see this... Ronzoni Smart Taste does has fiber and other nutrients added but they are artificial nutrients. Your body doesn't know what to do with artificial nutrients; therefore, it can't and doesnt' use them. Additionally, the sugar from the white pasta slows down the aborption of any nutrients anyway (if there were any real nutrients). The company puts that on their box to sell the product.

What about the Barilla Plus with omega 3's?

Semolina, grain and legume flour blend, [grains and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, spelt, barley, oats), egg whites, oat fiber], durum flour, niacin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

Contains wheat and egg ingredients.

Semolina by definition is durum wheat with the bran & germ (most of the nutrients) removed. So 100% semolina is NOT whole grain. 100% whole grain durum flour would be.

I love whole wheat pasta. I have never tried this brand but I will. I like the dense texture.

What do you think about Barilla high-protein pasta? Is it more nutritious than whole wheat pasta?

Years ago whole wheat pasta was really chewy and pretty awful. Now it is really good but my Italian husband objected to the idea. I mixed regular and whole wheat for a while and then changed to all whole week or whole grain, and he likes it just fine.

How do you rate chickpea pasta? We prefer Banza brand. Even our 5 yr will eat this😊

To those who cannot stand the texture, keep trying different types and brands. Some brands are truly awful, but there are some out there that are good. Just like whole wheat breads, some are awful too, but there are good ones out there!

However much I want to make only whole wheat pasta, I can't give up regular pasta. In my opinion, regular is much more delicious. I am not an Italian chef, but to me, there is a difference even with extras and different sauces. But I try to use whole wheat pasta 80% of the time and leave 20% for regular pasta - weeknight dinners, for example.

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