A Comfort Food That’s Comfortingly Healthy

I’m not a frequent pasta eater, but I always have a stash of comforting penne or fussili on hand (which in my opinion is much more fun for your mouth than smooth shapes). One thing I’ve noticed about pasta is that the wheat used is not your regular wheat, but usually “durum wheat” or “semolina”. So how do those compare nutritionally to your basic garden variety wheat?

Durum is a tougher wheat than basic “bread wheat” so it stands up better to boiling. Semolina is the end result of milling durum wheat, meaning that durum and semolina are the same thing (though semolina is a slightly more refined version of pure durum wheat).

What’s key then to watch for, if you’re looking for a whole wheat pasta, is to be sure it says “100% whole wheat durum”.  If it simply says “100% durum wheat”, or “organic durum wheat”, it means the germ and the bran have been stripped out and it’s no more nutritious than your basic white flour.

Some of the nutrients removed when wheat’s refined are Vitamin E, calcium, iron and 15 others. Even if it is made from whole wheat, many of the larger commercial brands enrich their pasta with extra iron and various B vitamins such as folic acid.  I believe this is because since white flour pasta is heavily enriched, if consumers were to compare labels, the brand wants the whole wheat version to show at least the same level of nutrients, even if those nutrients were added later at higher levels than are naturally occurring.

So bottom line, be sure it says “100% whole durum wheat” if that’s what you’re going for, but don’t assume that it’s not whole wheat if there are added nutrients.

(I know this is totally irrational, but if I’m going to eat spaghetti, I want white flour pasta, but if it’s tubular or irregular shapes, then I usually generally go for whole-wheat.  Go figure …)

Best ways to enjoy pasta? A simple homemade ground beef-tomato-vegetable sauce is my favorite (link below), but in the event you don’t have that on hand,  another stand-by of mine is pasta with sausage and spinach.  I keep a supply of both frozen for emergencies, though if I’ve had time to grab fresh spinach there is no comparison. And parma cheese is essential as there are few foods that can’t be elevated to excellence with a light shaving from the Italian gods.

If you’re looking for a dish with maximum flavor and minimal time, it doesn’t get any better than this.  I’m a big fan of fussili and penne but feel free to use any pasta shape. I love using sausage in pasta as the flavors and oil seeps out as you cook it, lending these delicious flavors to the dish. I don’t show amounts below since it really depends on how many you’re serving and whether you’re in the mood for more or less sausage, spinach or pasta.

Pasta with Sausage and Spinach


  • Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • Sausage (go for high quality with added herbs and spices)
  • Onion
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. Toss the pasta into boiling water and set for 12 minutes (if penne or fussili).
  2. Cook the sausages in a frying pan.  
  3. In the same pan, as sausages cook, add a little olive oil and the sliced onion.  
  4. Once the sausages and onion are nearly done, add the torn up spinach to the sausage and onion and cook for about 20 seconds until it wilts. Add a little salt.
  5. Take the sausages out of the pan and chop into smaller pieces.
  6. Transfer everything into a big bowl (being sure to scrape up all the oil from the cooked sausage from the bottom of the pan!) and top with grated parma cheese.  


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