Selecting a good brand and cooking it with careful attention are critical when making enjoyable whole grain pasta dishes. Even the best of the pastas I sampled, unlike those made from refined wheat, are not very forgiving–they get gummy or fall apart easily if overcooked. Just remember that these dried pastas cook more quickly than similar shapes made from refined semolina, often in five to seven minutes.

Whole wheat pasta is more perishable than pasta made with refined semolina since the bran and germ are rich in oils that oxidize when exposed to light. Instead of a shelf life of a year or more, it is best to use whole wheat pasta within a few months of purchasing it.

As with regular pasta, bring an abundant amount of cold water to a boil in a large pot. Four to five quarts is sufficient to cook a pound of pasta. When the water comes to a boil, add salt (one and one-half tablespoons) and then the pasta. Stir to keep the noodles separate and cook until just before the pasta is done; residual heat in the pasta will continue the softening process as you drain the pasta and toss it with some sauce. Drain, sauce, and serve the pasta as quickly as possible to keep everything hot.

While some whole wheat spaghetti is elastic enough to use for cold pasta salads, I recommend using the shorter, chubby shapes, including macaroni, solely in hot dishes. This is definitely true for all the other dark Mediterranean-style pastas.