Everybody loves pasta. It’s one of those universally comforting foods that transcends generations. But not everyone can stomach the gluten it typically contains or has an appetite for heavier, refined grain pasta piled high on their plate. And if you’re following a diet like Paleo or Keto that shuns grains you might be missing a comforting bowl of noodles.
The good news if zucchini noodles just aren’t cutting it for you is that with a rising need and demand for alternatives, food manufacturers are learning how to perfect their alternative pasta offerings that go way beyond the lackluster brown rice and corn varieties.
Leading the charge is spaghetti, penne and other noodle shapes made with pulses (the umbrella term for lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas). They’re not only gluten- and grain-free—they’re also increasingly delicious with textures that won’t leave an Italian grandma cringing. Plus, they help satisfy cravings with a notable nutritional pedigree.
A 2-ounce serving of chickpea-based pasta supplies about 13 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber – that is twice as much protein and three times as much fiber as regular pasta. This, in turn, can set you up for fewer post-meal hunger pangs and improved blood sugar levels so you feel less sluggish post pasta night. Also, you get more of the vital micronutrients like magnesium, iron and potassium found in beans and lentils. A review of studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating more pulses, which includes lentil rotini and chickpea lasagna, could make it easier to shed a few pounds even when you’re not intending to cut back on calories. What’s more, an analysis of data from more than 30 studies linked higher protein intake overall and plant protein specifically to lower all-cause mortality risks. So, certainly, there is a good argument to make for scooping Bolognese onto these modern-day noodles.
If you are following a diet that side-steps both grains and legumes you’re not out of luck. You can now find well-crafted store-bought pasta made from items like almond flour and cassava. These can legitimately be higher in healthful items like beneficial fats and protein than traditional pasta. And most of the time, after you add your sauces and toppings, they taste as good as the real thing. Just keep in mind that alt-pastas are not necessarily lower in carbs than the regular stuff. So if you are being conscious of your intake of this macro be sure to pay attention to nutrition labels and serving sizes.
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when preparing any legume-based pasta. Most notably, they can go from perfectly al dente to soggy in a matter of moments, so taste test often close the recommended cooking time. The noodles also foam like crazy in boiling water, so skim it off as needed with a spoon. Unlike wheat-based noodles, the legume variety should be rinsed with cold water after draining.
Ready your pot of salted bubbly water. Here are 7 of the very best grain-free pastas on the market that are worthy of a resounding Mamma Mia!
Made with nothing more than yellow peas, these noodles boil up nicely al dente with less clumping or stickiness. Use them in soups or to craft your own mac and cheese.
The folks at Jovial have succeeded in creating noodles that can be enjoyed by all discerning pasta lovers. In fact, these noodles won a 2021 Clean Choice Award! Wheat flour is swapped out for cassava flour which comes from a starchy root vegetable. Try them in this Hot Pepper and Eggplant Penne.
An upgrade to KD, the duo of red lentils and pea protein lend this dairy-free, gluten-free (and dare we say kid-approved) mac 16 grams of protein in a serving. Up the nutritional ante by tossing veggies like steamed broccoli or frozen peas into the mix.
These protein-packed chickpea and lentil noodle sheets are the best thing to happen to lasagne since ricotta cheese. Try them in this Butternut Squash Lasagna with Kale Pesto.
Made mainly with chickpeas (plus a bit of tapioca and xantham gum), this noodle shape is perfect for pasta salads. They even have a ready-to-bake chickpea pizza crust.
Made from a combination of organic potato, egg, almond flour, and sweet potato flour, these tender Paleo-worthy gnocchi (which you’ll find in the freezer section) are your answer to a quick weeknight meal. Also, check out their almond flour fettuccini for pasta night.
Made only with edamame bean flour, these noodles can be considered a complete protein source, which is useful if you eschewing meat and dairy from your diet. A ¼ cup serving of dry noodles contain a whopping 18 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Try it in this dreamy scallop carbonara.