5 Grain Free Pasta Options
“Excuse me? Did someone say gluten free, grain free, soy free PASTA??”
I’m frequently asked how I’ve made such dramatic changes to my health (in addition to losing 72 pounds, I no longer have diabetes or an elevated A1C, high cholesterol, or evidence of inflammation present; you can read my full story here).
Generally, when they find out that the results I’ve received had something to do with a gluten free lifestyle, their facial expression often changes (and it’s not exactly in a joyful way.) In fact, a common response is “Oh, I could NEVER eat the way you do…I just HAVE to have my pasta!” This is a regular topic in these conversations. And yes, this conversation happens pretty much on a daily basis.
I’ll fully admit…I used to think that way, too…until Celiac Disease and my own poor health required me to think differently!
So, I’m pretty excited to offer up some solutions and options for this crowd of non-joyful facial expressions. I can just see them smiling now!
These products all meet my strict criteria: they are gluten free, grain free, soy free, preferably free of refined sugar, and free of artificial colors, flavors, and other hidden ingredients and fillers. Some of these new packaged possibilities are made in a certified gluten free facility; this is definitely important in order to avoid chances of cross-contamination. All of these options are dairy free (bonus!) and the first four are Paleo!
So, twist my arm…pasta has made a return!
Here are FIVE options for you to try. FIVE pasta options! Did I just hear myself say that?
These options are in no particular order. I wanted to be as objective as possible in this review, and provide you with the benefits and downfalls (if any) of each option. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, products, or farms that grow the produce. However, if they want to shower me with some grain free pasta or non-GMO produce, I definitely would not turn it away!
1. SHIRITAKI NOODLES
I was first introduced to shiritaki noodles earlier this year while participating in farmer’s markets to raise awareness of Celiac Disease. They are made from a Korean yam, and contain virtually no other ingredients. My understanding is that they grind the yams to a flour, and then make noodles out of them.
Some people complain that the noodles have a “fishy” smell. I haven’t personally experienced this, but I’ve been getting mine from a local farmer who imports them in bulk, so maybe the smell is dissipated within the lot (rather than being confined to a small package). I truly have no idea why they would smell fishy anyway, since they are made from a vegetable.
Earlier this year I posted about using these to make a fabulous (and vegetarian!) stir fry that even my non-vegetable-eating kids loved. The cool thing about these is that they take on the juice of whatever you cook them with – so although they may look a little strange, the taste and texture are really good, and eventually they will mesh with the sauce or even turn white if left to sit in water.
Pros: The noodles are easy to cook, hold their texture well, taste fine, are vegetarian/vegan and the package serves many; they are priced economically around $3 per 12 ounce package, and after cooked, they keep for long periods of time in the refrigerator.
Cons: These noodles can be difficult to find locally if there isn’t an Asian market available; online places charge shipping (and the noodles may have a “fishy” smell according to reviews) and potentially contain other additives that aren’t Celiac friendly. They also don’t present the prettiest if you are trying to impress your date with a plate of homemade spaghetti (if he asks what “those worms are,” your date might be over.)
I first saw Cappello’s on Instagram earlier this year. They were touting some amazing grain-free pasta options, and I’d been really wanting to try them. At the time, the pastas were only available from their website, and I found the shipping to be a bit cost-prohibitive. In April of this year, I attended the Paleo f(X) show in Austin (see my post) and found out afterward that Cappello’s had a booth there…but somehow I missed them! So, I was ecstatic when I found out that their products are now in Earthfare grocery stores – one of which is just a 45 minute drive from me.
I confess that I just had to try all of their pasta options (fettuccine, lasagna and gnocchi), but for today we’re sticking with reviewing the basics (fettuccine).
Being that my son was headed off to college for the fall, I wanted to have a nice dinner with his favorite: a plate of my homemade spaghetti.
I read over the instructions on the box, and then read over them again. It just seemed way too easy after so much anticipation! And…it WAS easy. Essentially, you just flash boil it and it’s ready to eat! I added my homemade meat and mushroom sauce, along with some of my bread rolls on the side (recipe here). Voila! Dinner was made, and it was seriously delicious. Teenager approved (and except for at home, he doesn’t eat gluten free or Paleo).
Pros: Ready to eat in the time it takes to boil water, delicious, great texture, the ingredients include cage free eggs, excellent packaging, vegetarian, and meets the noodles meet Paleo lifestyle qualifications. Products are tested for the presence of gluten.
Cons: Must be kept refrigerated or frozen, package size is small (9 oz), contains xanthan gum (I try to avoid this since it can come from a corn source), contains tapioca (this is a starch that does raise blood sugar; consider using sparingly with autoimmune conditions and diabetes).
CONFESSION: I used to love to eat frozen pasta. This tastes almost EXACTLY like the frozen pasta from my gluten-eating days!
Price: $11-$14 per 9 ounce package (must order 4 on their website or the sampler pack). It’s not clear if shipping charges are tacked on at checkout, or if they’re included.
3. SPAGHETTI SQUASH
My very first try at a gluten and grain free pasta was when I cooked my first spaghetti squash. I winced at the word “squash” and wanted to start crying, but I swallowed hard and tried heavy meditation to re-program my brain. I’ve never been a squash eater…just the word conjures up “yuck” in my brain.
However, the mediation must have worked, because when I wrote this blog post, you can tell that I was pretty excited! If you need help making a spaghetti squash, just follow the easy instructions in my post, and I think you’ll be amazed at how versatile this vegetable is!
Pros: Easy to make, readily available, self-contained, vegetarian/vegan, low carbohydrate, one squash serves many, rich in fiber, good texture if cooked right, seeds are great as a crunchy sea salt treat when roasted.
Cons: It’s still squash, so the texture can be a challenge (my daughter still has a hard time overcoming it). Being that it’s a vegetable, it contains a lot of water, so it can become squishy after serving.
Cost: $.50-$1.99 per pound, or grow it yourself organically for the cost of an heirloom seed packet.
One day a while back, I had a yam I didn’t know what to do with. This was well before I’d even heard about a spiralizer (zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,”are definitely another grain free option, but I haven’t made them yet). So, if you don’t have a spiralizer (I don’t yet), never fear…yamsketti is here!
This was so easy to make it scared me. It also scared me that I was eating a yam. I know I had bought it with good intentions, but sweet potatoes and yams just haven’t been something my tastebuds have come to appreciate yet. Well…this actually made its way onto my plate AND I ATE it!
You can check out the post here, but it was pretty simple…use a julienne peeler on a yam, saute, add some veggies, saute some more…and serve!
Pros: Readily available, low glycemic, vegetarian/vegan, can be grown in your garden, rich in vitamin C
Cons: Contains higher levels of carbohydrates than the other vegetable options, can be a challenge to shred/julienne without a food processor (I only cut myself once).
Cost varies with seasonal availability. Stock up when the grocery stores have them for the holidays (they usually offer them for a lower price), or grow them yourself for the cost of an organic seed yam (beware you have to dig deep to harvest them!)
5. BEAN-BASED PASTAS (not for a strict Paleo lifestyle)
I first met the owner of a bean-pasta vendor at the Gluten Free Food and Allergy Fest. She blessed me with a plate of gluten free pasta, but because I am very strictly grain and soy free, I had to wander down to her booth and read the package for myself. I’m sure I seemed like quite a gluten free diva at the time, but I believe in being super careful about what you put in your body…especially for anyone with Celiac Disease or an auto-immune condition. The pasta itself was delicious. It held up beautifully during the cooking process, and the taste and texture were absolutely amazing.
The pasta is made from a simple ingredient: red lentil beans. There are now several on the market. They also make black bean and green lentil pastas; I prefer the taste and texture of the red lentil. Pros: Delicious, simple (no added ingredients), vegetarian/vegan, certified gluten free, great texture, black bean version available, packaged as a good portion size (12 ounces or sold in bulk). Although bean pasta is a higher carb food, just a small amount will fill you up! It also keeps on the shelf in the pantry – it doesn’t take up precious space in the freezer/refrigerator. Cons: The pasta, being made from beans, doesn’t technically meet the criteria of a strict Paleo lifestyle. Also, if your immune system isn’t fully healed, you may still experience digestive issues from bean consumption. However, if you follow a traditional gluten free lifestyle and have a healed intestinal tract, you’re in the clear!
I hope this helps you feel more pasta-empowered. The gluten free, grain free, soy free, dairy free sort of empowerment, that is!
Which one is your favorite? Are there other grain free pastas I should try?
~Jen of The Gluten & Grain Free Gourmet