Whole-Grain Spaghetti With Caramelized Onion Sauce

4 main-course servings or

8 side-dish servings

Three pounds of onions might sound like a lot here, but as they cook the onions are gradually reduced to a velvety sweet, pulpy sauce. A touch of tomato and pecorino cheese give the sauce an added punch that is just right for dressing nutty whole-grain noodles.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced oregano or marjoram

1/2 cup dry white wine

11/2 tablespoons tomato paste

3/4 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1 pound whole-grain spaghetti or thin spaghetti (spaghettini)

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, or more to taste

In a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat, heat the butter and oil. Add the onions and toss to combine. Cook until the onions are beginning to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, a generous grinding of pepper and the oregano or marjoram. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and cook for about 1 hour, until the onions are golden and soft, stirring occasionally to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan.

Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the wine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomato paste to the broth and pour the mixture over the onions. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring until thoroughly combined.

While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the spaghetti, cooking according to the package directions, until al dente, taking care not to overcook it. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce and half the cheese into the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce.

Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls. Spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each portion and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. Serve hot.

Per serving (based on 4): 746 calories, 23 g protein, 116 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat, 779 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Diane Weeks; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti With Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

4 main-course servings or

8 side-dish servings

This is a good all-purpose sauce for dressing whole-wheat and whole-grain pasta. Look for ripe tomatoes. Roasting them slowly at a moderately low temperature intensifies their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness.

The tomatoes can be made in advance and will last several weeks, covered with olive oil and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can easily make many variations for this sauce by adding anchovies and chopped black olives, diced pancetta or sauteed eggplant and zucchini.

For the tomatoes:

3 pounds (about 24) Roma tomatoes

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta and sauce:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Cayenne pepper

1/3 cup shredded basil leaves

1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

For the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomatoes, cut side up. Drizzle the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the tomatoes, basting them two or three times with oil from the sheet, until they have partially collapsed but are still a little plump and juicy, about 3 hours. Let cool to room temperature and remove and discard skin, if desired.

For the pasta and sauce: When ready to serve, bring a pot of salted water to a boil on medium-high heat.

In a large skillet or saute pan on medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is shiny and softened, for 7 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the roasted tomatoes in a food processor and process briefly until they are coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the onions and season with the salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is just beginning to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente, taking care not to overcook it. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce into the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce.

Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls and spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each portion. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over each serving and pass additional cheese at the table. Serve hot.

Per serving (based on 4): 430 calories, 12 g protein, 61 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g saturated fat, 908 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by John Allen; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Whole-Wheat Pasta

With Sausage and Kale

4 main-course servings or

8 side-dish servings

Here is a classic example of what Italians call pastaasciutta, or "dry pasta." The sauce is more of a saute of the ingredients, to be tossed with the cooked noodles, than a uniform, pourable sauce.

1 pound curly kale, hard, thick stem ends trimmed

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage links

3 cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 pound short, sturdy whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or rotini

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drop in the kale, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the leaves are bright green and the stems are just tender. Remove the kale with tongs or a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water to cook the pasta, and drain the greens in a colander. Chop coarsely and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Squeeze the sausage out of its casings into the skillet, breaking up any large clumps with a wooden spoon, and add the garlic. Cook gently over medium to medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the garlic has softened but not browned and the sausage has lost its pink color and is barely beginning to brown. Pour off fat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the chopped kale and red pepper flakes and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until well combined and heated through.

Add the tomato paste to the wine and pour it into the skillet. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Drizzle in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.

Meanwhile, reheat the cooking water from the kale (or use fresh salted water) and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, until al dente, taking care not to overcook it. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce into the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce a bit. Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls and spoon the remaining sauce over each portion.

Per serving (based on 4): 697 calories, 29 g protein, 98 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat, 544 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Penne With Bell Pepper

and Anchovy Sauce

4 main-dish servings or

8 side-dish servings

Imported Italian anchovy fillets, such as Rizzoli Alici in Salsa Piccante, add depth to this sauce, but any anchovies will work. Its chunky texture is best paired with a short, sturdy pasta shape.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 small red onion, finely chopped

6 bell peppers (3 red, 3 yellow), seeded and cut into thin (1/4-inch) slices

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

4 imported Italian anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped

1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

1 pound whole-wheat pasta, such as penne or rigatoni

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large skillet on medium heat, add the oil and garlic. Stir in the onion and cook for 8 minutes, until the onion is shiny and softened. Add the sliced peppers and cook, stirring frequently, over medium to medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Add the paprika and salt. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low, simmering gently for about 25 minutes or until the peppers are tender but not mushy. Uncover and stir occasionally to prevent the peppers from sticking to the pan. Add the anchovies and capers, stirring to combine well. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat and add the parsley. Reheat on low when the pasta is almost cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium-high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to package directions, taking care not to overcook it. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot.

Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce into the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce. Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls and spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each portion. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Serve hot.

Per serving (based on 4): 536 calories, 20 g protein, 94 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 530 mg sodium, 13 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com