Jim Coleman | Whole-wheat or regular pasta? Both work OK

Q. I enjoy your articles and recipes when I have time to try them.

Lately, I have been trying to cook more heart-healthy foods.

Can I substitute whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta in any recipe? Also, do you need to cook whole-wheat pasta any differently?

If possible, could you send me a couple of recipes using whole wheat penne or ziti, because they are my husband's favorite types? Thanks, and keep up the good work!

- Brenda K.

A. First of all, has anyone told you that you have incredible taste when it comes to choosing articles to read and enjoy?

I'm sure a long list of people have, but if for some wild chance you haven't heard this or it's been awhile, then let me without hesitation state that you, Brenda, have unbelievable taste when it comes to culinary columns.

Second, as you may be aware, I am trying to cook more healthfully as well.

So one of the earliest changes I made was using whole-wheat pasta in my favorite pasta dishes.

I just wish all heart-healthy changes were as simple. If they were, even I would come across as a nutritional wizard (something I have never been accused of, at least in the positive way).

And yes, Brenda, you can substitute whole-wheat pasta for other pasta in just about any recipe.

Now, before we get into cooking whole-wheat pasta, let's take a breather so everyone you know can shower you with praise for using whole-wheat pasta to begin with.

Why, you modestly ask?

Well, because when you are using any whole wheat item, you are getting the fiber you need, because it retains the entire wheat berry.

Not only that, but you also are getting many more nutrients (including protein, B vitamins, iron and magnesium) than you would get by using processed wheat flour.

When cooking all types of pasta, make sure you use a large pot with lots of water. This way you won't have to add oil because the pasta won't stick together.

Also, make sure you bring the water to a rolling boil before adding your pasta, and cook it on the highest heat at a vigorous boil the whole time.

Add a little kosher salt or sea salt just before the water boils to help keep the pasta from getting sticky.

Whole-wheat pasta is a little denser than regular pasta, which makes it easier to keep it "al dente" - firm to the tooth, the way pasta should feel in your mouth when it is cooked correctly.

It's just another reason I like whole-wheat pasta, just like I like people who have great taste in articles.

Did I mention that? *