Vegetable Pasta: The Next Best Thing Since Pasta Itself?

08/01/2016 07:53 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2016

This past week I came across a new pasta product that I can’t wait to experiment more with: Catelli’s “SuperGreens” line. Made with spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley, and kale, the new pasta is an agreeable twist from the classic, white-flour-based Italian staple that many around the world simply couldn’t imagine life without.

For years the World Health Organization has been urging individuals to consume more fruits and vegetables because of their beneficial health effects. The WHO recommends that we consume at least 400 grams — around 5 servings — per day. However many, especially men, do not fill their plates up with enough of the nutrient-loaded foodstuffs to meet this amount. In Canada, for example, a Statistics Canada study carried out between 2001-2014 found that less than half of women (46.6%) and a third of men (32.1%) consumed the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

So how about pasta made with vegetables? I think Catelli, which formed almost a decade and a half ago when an Italian immigrant established Canada’s first pasta plant in Montreal, has made a smart move. According to the nutrition label, a 1-cup serving of the fortified pasta contains 20% of the recommended daily value of iron, 25% of folate, 20% magnesium, and more. The main ingredient in the pasta is still wheat — durum wheat. Also known as “pasta wheat”, almost all commercially-made pasta is made with this type of wheat since its dough is easier to shape — and eventually transform into noodles.

Catelli's new "SuperGreens" line
Photo By Mary Wales
Catelli's new "SuperGreens" line

The vegetables in the SuperGreens pasta are dried first before being mixed with the other ingredients. The label doesn’t state the percentage of vegetables used in the new line, but, judging from the flavour, I’d say that the dominant ingredient is surely wheat. Perhaps having too much vegetable flavour would cause some — especially green-vegetable-fearing children — to turn their noses up.

I luckily got to sit down with Toronto chef Cory Vitiello, the founder of the infamous Harbord Room and Flock Rotisserie + Greens a few doors down, over lunch one day and try his very own Fussili with Slow Cooked Yellow Zucchini, Roasted Garlic, Pecorino Cheese, Fresh Parsley, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil recipe made with the new SuperGreens fussili. Cory says that any pasta does best with fresh, seasonal ingredients when you “can let the beautiful vegetables and flavours speak for themselves.” He tells me that Catelli’s new line is a response to changing consumer trends: “Eating vegetable-dense diets is something that’s just becoming more prevalent in homes,” he says.

Fussili with Slow Cooked Yellow Zucchini, Roasted Garlic, Pecorino Cheese, Fresh Parsley, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Recipe
Photo by Mary Wales
Fussili with Slow Cooked Yellow Zucchini, Roasted Garlic, Pecorino Cheese, Fresh Parsley, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Recipe by Toronto chef and restauranteur Cory Vitiello

I usually don’t expect to be able to clear any pasta plate — and, to be polite, I warned the talented chef I sat across from of that before hand. “It’s won’t have anything to do with your cooking,” I truthfully assured him. To my surprise, however, the flavorful and colourful plate was empty within 15 minutes. The lemon zest and roasted garlic truly set Cory’s edible creation off, but I also left his restaurant with a lighter feeling in my stomach than I would have had I eaten a classic pasta dish. I pondered whether the vegetable content of the new noodles makes them easier to digest, meaning the new product is bound to please those who don’t appreciate that sluggish feeling that can follow a carb-loaded meal.

Overall, I can see the innovative pasta line — which provides a simple way for consumers to cook and eat more greens, indeed a very good thing — quickly becoming a kitchen favourite among health-conscious consumers and pasta lovers (isn’t that everyone?) alike. Healthier pasta just makes incredible sense.

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