Last weekend, while my sister and brother-in-law (and their adorable son) were in town, I took advantage of having some extra tastebuds in the house and we hosted an alternative pasta tasting! We didn’t use any vegetable spirals for this taste test, instead rounding up a few shelf-stable pre-packaged options (because there are LOTS of those out there, as many of you know!). To qualify, these pastas had to be gluten free — made with something other than the flour traditionally used to make the dish.
We based our taste test on factors including appearance, texture, and overall taste. We first sampled each pasta plain, and then added some marinara sauce and tasted it again before providing our final scores. These pastas all have varying nutritional facts, of course (some with more protein than others, for example), but we based our test more on overall experience and taste. Obviously, we aren’t official taste testers by any means (are there such things?), but we tried to go into this exercise with an open mind and clear palates.
Here are the pastas we included in our taste test, along with our findings. These are ordered from our least favorite to our top pick:
- Organic Black Bean Spaghetti (Explore Cuisine):
- We all agreed this one had a weird appearance (like “shredded tires,” Kevin noted, and he wasn’t wrong…).
- To match the tire look, this pasta also had an unpleasant, rubber-like texture.
- Overall score: 3
- Organic Red Lentil Sedanini (Trader Joe’s):
- Susan said, “It reminds me of vegetables and looks healthy.”
- We gave it an 8 on appearance.
- At first, the flavor starts off great, but then the pasta “almost becomes a bean in your mouth,” according to Kevin.
- There’s definitely a distinct flavor shift that happens after a couple of seconds.
- It tasted better on its own than it did with the sauce.
- Overall score: 5
- Organic Chickpea Spaghetti (Explore Cuisine):
- Note: I expected this one to be my favorite!
- This one looked like normal spaghetti.
- It had a starchy “in an earthy way” texture, said Susan.
- It worked much better with the sauce than without.
- Overall score: 5
- Gluten-Free Fusilli Corn & Rice Blend Pasta (Simply Balanced):
- The color was vibrant and almost “hyper real,” said Kevin.
- The taste and texture of corn were both clearly evident.
- “I like the corn, but I like the quinoa pastas better.” – Kevin
- Overall score: 7
- Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta (Trader Joe’s):
- We scored this one’s appearance as a 9, and its texture was very much like regular pasta, too.
- We decided this was the most blank slate of all the alternative pastas we tried, in that it didn’t have a strong flavor and could pair easily with anything (any pasta sauce, in a pasta salad, etc.). That was a very good thing!
- Overall score: 8
- Gluten-Free Quinoa Penne Pasta (Tresomega Nutrition):
- We loved the appearance of this one, and it held up well (had a similar texture to regular pasta).
- It had really good bite and no aftertaste or strange texture.
- Kevin said at one point, “I’m just eating this one for fun at this point!”
- Overall score: 9
Moral of the story: As far a our recommendation goes, reach for a quinoa-based pasta for the best alternative pasta experience!