Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
When last year’s whole wheat spaghetti tasting turned up more than one pasta that offered pleasantly nutty flavor and tender-firm chew, we wondered if the trend extended to noodle shapes like lasagna. We sampled four national brands—three made from 100 percent whole wheat flour and one a whole wheat/white flour blend—plain and baked in our Vegetable Lasagna.
We thought the most important factor driving our preferences would be the type of lasagna noodle: Three of the samples were traditional noodles that must be cooked before layering into the casserole, while the fourth was a no-boil product. Our recipes typically call for no-boil noodles (which are precooked and dehydrated before packaging) because we find their thinner, more delicate texture closer to that of fresh pasta. They’re also a cinch to work with.
As it turned out, we thought wrong: Tasters’ likes and dislikes were mainly grouped around wheat flavor. As they had during the spaghetti tasting, tasters panned noodles that were too gritty and cardboard-y. But pasta that too closely resembled the white kind—including the no-boil lasagna—wasn’t their top pick either. Our champ turned out to be none other than our whole wheat spaghetti winner. Tasters appreciated this brand’s complex flavor and substantial chew so much that they were willing to put up with the extra step of boiling the traditional noodles.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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