If you ask renowned heart doctor Giovanni Campanile, the answer is yes: you can indulge your cravings for pasta and not hate yourself later. And no: To do it, you don’t have to be an endurance athlete whose fuel furnace burns calories like kindling. All you need, says Campanile, is to swap the old white-flour-based stuff—that high-glycemic, insulin-spiking gut punch that can derail a day’s worth of gym work—for superhealthy, unbelievably tasty whole-grain pastas.
The reason? It’s not rocket science, but biology: The body digests whole grains—grains that still have their endosperm, germ, and bran—more slowly than those that have been stripped (aka “refined”); that means blood-sugar levels don’t jump wildly, so there’s less chance of storing fat and developing diabetes. Whole grains also have more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains, as well as fewer calories, three times the fiber, and 25% more protein.
“Grain pastas are perfect superfoods—they’re packed with phytonutrients and have been shown to prevent heart disease, cancers, and diabetes in many studies,” says Campanile, who’s so behind the whole-grain movement that in 2013 he opened Pazzi Pasta, a Brooklyn eatery specializing in “ancient” grains—wheats like emmer, spelt, and red fife—as well as rye, quinoa, and millet.
But if you can’t get to Brooklyn, you’re still in luck: Your local supermarket likely stocks the same grains in pasta form—try the Eden Foods or Racconto brands—or as seeds you can easily make into pasta at home.
Here, courtesy of Pazzi Pasta and grain-savvy chefs Walter Edward of Tallulah’s, in Seattle, and Simone Bonelli of NYC’s La Pecora Bianca, are three delectable, nourishing new ways to put pasta back on your table.