Wholemeal pasta is made using the outer layer of the durum wheat kernel, while traditional pasta uses only the starchy inner parts of the wheat, resulting in a lower fibre content. This latest research – a collaboration between Italian and Australian universities – uses traditional plant breeding methods to boost the soluble fibre content of durum wheat.
Italian PhD student, Ilaria Marcotuli, has been working on the project alongside scientists at the Australian Research Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls.
“Compared to the pasta on the market now, it has something extra,” she told FoodNavigator, explaining that the researchers have not used the strains of durum wheat currently used for pasta, and instead modified two different strains to increase their soluble fibre content.
Importantly, the colour would remain unchanged compared to regular pasta.
“People don’t like to have brown pasta because, in their culture, pasta is yellow,” she said, adding that pasta made with the modified wheat “looks exactly the same”.
She said the research team is looking to publish its work soon, but in the meantime, “hopefully someone will be interested outside of the scientific community.”
Her hopes are high, considering the strong evidence linking high fibre diets with health benefits, including lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“We already know it’s true; it’s not something we’re trying to prove,” she said.
When it comes to processing the pasta, Marcotuli said: “We have tried making pasta with the Italian traditional method and there are not consistent differences between the lines used from the Australian company to make pasta. The only thing is the lines with higher content of fibre need just a bit more water during the process.”
Researchers at the Plant Cell Wall centre also claim to have increased the dietary fibre in barley by more than 50% by modifying betaglucan genes.