Best for Pesto
Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Pasta
Some whole grain pastas are blah, while others taste like bitter cardboard. But this line of penne, rotelle and spaghetti gets it just right with a comforting, starchy wheat flavor. "It's got personality but still lets other ingredients shine," one taster said. That makes it perfecto for intense sauces like pesto. "I bet even my skeptical husband would be impressed!" another panelist raved.
$1.29 for 1 pound, at Trader Joe's stores
Best for Creamy Sauces
Al Dente Whole Wheat Fetuccine Plus Flax
Pasteurized eggs give this fettuccine the rich taste and velvety texture of egg noodles, and flaxseed adds a sweet earthiness. The delicate, flavorful ribbons are made to soak up a creamy cheese sauce like alfredo -- or something even simpler. "Give me a warm bowl of this pasta tossed with salted butter and parmesan and I'll be happy," one panelist said.
$3.99 for 12 ounces, at most grocery stores
Best for Red Sauces
Rao's Homemade Whole Wheat Penne Rigate
Who knew pasta could be so darn sexy? Our tasters quickly ran out of superlatives to describe the come-hither, enveloping shape of this oversize penne. "A thick red sauce would hug every nook and cranny on these babies," one panelist enthused while eyeing the deep grooves on each noodle. Made by hand in Puglia, Italy, it has, as one panelist described it, a "perfectly chewy, toothsome bite."
$5.49 for 17.6 ounces, at most grocery stores
Best for Asian Sauces
Annie Chun's Japanese Soba Noodles
"These noodles taste so fresh! Are you sure they came dried, out of a box?" one taster asked. Indeed! Once cooked, the strands turn light and springy, due to egg whites and a little wheat flour. The complex, nutty flavor comes from buckwheat flour -- the main ingredient in traditional Japanese soba. Serve the noodles with a peanut sauce, or take the lead of another panelist, who planned to make her family a sobaand- veggie stir-fry.
$2.99 for 12 ounces, at most grocery stores