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Pasta recipes: White versus brown

245187_1293Selecting the right vehicle for a dish is very important and can have a huge impact on flavour. When it comes to brown rice, it simply tastes better than white and with the exception of certain curries, goes better with most dishes. However, the merits of brown and white pasta are not as clear cut.

What is definite is that wholewheat pasta is healthier which is a good thing because many recipes taste great wrapped around it. Brown pasta has a strong flavour of its own and is ideally matched with bold flavours. The strong nutty taste goes well with a basil and pine nut pesto, simple roasted vegetables and other robust earthy flavours.

However, I wouldn’t rule out white pasta because it is well matched with clean flavours such as lemon and simple oil based dishes. I also find tomato based sauces taste much better with white pasta – the flavour of a Puttanesca is complimented by a linguine but clashes with a wholewheat penne. Here are a couple of recipes which illustrate my point.

Wholewheat pasta with sausage, mustard and caramelised onions

Serves two


  • 175g fresh spicy sausage
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into thin rings
  • 225g wholewheat pasta
  • 150ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp grain mustard
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Slice the sausage into thick rounds. Fry it in the oil for four minutes and then add the onion rings. Continue to cook, covered, until the onions start to soften, adding a drop more oil if necessary.
  2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add a little salt and the pasta. Cook until firm but tender.
  3. After about 15 – 20 minutes, when the onions are golden and carmelised, add the stock. Bring to the boil and stir in the parsely and mustard. Add the cooked, drained pasta and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Linguine with fresh tomato and basil

Serves four


  • 500g dried linguine
  • 6-7 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ½ red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 handful torn fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until firm to the bite.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Let stand while the pasta is cooking to allow the flavours to blend. Drain the pasta and toss with the marinated tomatoes in a large serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. There is a local dish in Venice which is onions, anchovies, garlic, capers, lemon, parsley and parmesan with a buckwheat noodle – it is great with wholewheat pasta.

  2. Sounds like a lovely combination. I forgot about buckwheat pasta – a good one if you’re looking for gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free pasta.