"The germinated pigeon pea flour can be an excellent ingredient to increase the nutritional value of semolina pasta without affecting the sensory properties," wrote the researchers in the journal Food Chemistry (doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.01.018).
Pasta products, traditionally made only with durum wheat flour, are well accepted the world over because, say the researchers behind the new study, of their "low cost, ease of preparation, versatility, sensory attributes and long shelf life".
Specially-blended pasta products have been entering the market with non-durum wheat ingredients that enhance the nutritional properties of the resulting pasta.
Based on the preliminary results from Alexia Torres from the Simn Bolvar University in Venezuela and her co-workers from the Instituto de Fermentaciones Industriales (C.S.I.C.) in Spain, pigeon pea flour may eventually be considered a nutrition-enhancing pasta ingredient.
The results may also be a welcome boost to a legume that is predominantly grown in the world's developing countries, with 90 per cent of the worlds crop coming from India, but significant production also noted in East Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
The researchers prepared pasta using traditional durum wheat with different concentrations of pigeon pea flour added, ranging from five to eight per cent.
It was found that the supplemented pasta products had significantly enhanced nutritional content, compared to a control (100 per cent durum wheat flour) pasta. Levels of vitamin B1, B2 and E were all increased in the pigeon pea flour pasta.
Levels of protein, fat, dietary fibre and mineral contents were also reported to be improved by inclusion of the pigeon pea flour.
To compare cooking time of each of the pasta (0, 5, 8, 10 per cent pigeon pea flour) 10 grams of each pasta was cooked in 100 mL of water. It was found that addition of pigeon pea shortened the cooking time of the pasta, with the 10 per cent pigeon pea pasta being cooked three minutes quicker than the 100 per cent durum wheat pasta.
A 19-member semi-trained panel evaluated the colour, texture and flavour of the different types of pasta. In all three measures, the pigeon pea enriched pasta received higher scores than the control pasta, with the best performance by the eight per cent pigeon pea pasta.
"Germinated seeds, by these benefits, were incorporated as high-protein ingredients (up to 10 per cent) in pasta making resulting in products with good acceptability and larger amounts of protein, total available sugars, dietary fibre, micronutrients, and vitamins than pasta made from 100 per cent semolina," concluded the researcher.
More research is needed to evaluate if use of pigeon pea ingredients in pasta produced on an industrial scale would perform equally as well, and the effects of drying and storage on nutritional and sensory qualities is maintained, but the preliminary results appear promising.
An FAO report released early last month predicted a decrease in potential durum wheat yield of -2.3 per cent, a decline that is in-line with other decreases in world crop productions.