Why You Should Cook—and Dress—Your Grains Like Pasta

May  9, 2018

Pick a grain, any grain, and boil it in a big pot of salty water. Cook until tender, drain, dress, and eat. It’s that easy. We’ve been all about this game-changing, time-saving, confidence-boosting trick ever since Lindsay Maitland Hunt told us about it earlier this year. Instead of remembering—or, ahem, forgetting—water-to-grain ratios for the absorption method, you approach everything like pasta. Suddenly, rice and quinoa and barley and farro and on and on are all as simple as spaghetti.

Which is when I started to think: What if we treated grains like spaghetti? Or any pasta for that matter? Not just in the way we cook them, but in the way we dress and serve them, too. I’m a saucy pasta person—in it as much for the noodle as, say, the extra-anchovy-y puttanesca or garlicky pesto. So why not feature that sauce elsewhere?

Photo by James Ransom

These wheat berries think they’re the cutest pasta shape around (and we won’t tell them otherwise). If you’ve never worked with wheat berries before, meet your newest, tiniest best bud. They are just what they sound like—whole-wheat kernels, bran, germ, and endosperm along for the ride. The most common variety is hard, red winter wheat, and these, too, are just what they sound like: hard. They take awhile to cook—almost an hour—but that gives you enough time to make (and clean up!) the rest of dinner. Say...

Shop the Story

Ultra-herby pistachio pesto. I opted for dill, basil, and mint because I like the way they get along with salty pecorino and garlic, but parsley or sage would be wonderful, too. The only caveat is: Err on the side of under- versus over-processing the nuts. If you buzz the pistachios too much, they’ll turn into butter and make the pesto greasy.

Also, just like with pasta, you’ll want to reserve some starchy water to toss with the grains and pesto, creating a creamy, clingy sauce. You know, clingy in a good way. Like, Oh pesto, I just can’t get rid of you! Doesn’t that sound nice?

What’s your favorite way to cook wheat berries? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

Cara May 9, 2018
Wheatberries with peanuts, soy sauce, sambal oelek, and cilantro! I ate this for breakfast every day for about four years.