Want more nutrition with your pasta, but you’re going gluten-free—or just had enough of whole wheat? We’ve collected five pasta alternatives, on a scale from I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Italian (great for the gluten-free beginner) to we’re-definitely-not-in-Rome-anymore (for the adventurous eater). Every one is packed with more nutrients than ordinary pasta. Try our gluten-free picks:
1. Brown rice pasta. This is the closest in texture to wheat pasta—so close that we’ve served it to Italians who couldn’t tell the difference! It’s not as low-glycemic as other alternatives, but it’s free of gluten and wheat, and an easy one to try. We recommend Tinkyáda brand.
2. Buckwheat sweet potato noodles. If you read the ingredients for most noodles packaged as “buckwheat noodles,” you’ll learn they’re made primarily of wheat flour. But buckwheat sweet potato noodles are free of wheat (though if you’re gluten-intolerant, always double-check the label). Lower on the glycemic index than most pastas, buckwheat has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Expect these to have a more toothsome bite, and a weightier feel.
3. Mung bean pasta. Their name might seem off-putting, but these noodles are actually neutral in flavor and similar in texture to the real stuff. Made from ground mung beans and nothing more, they’re a low-glycemic, high-protein, fiber-rich choice.
4. Kelp noodles. These are popular in raw restaurants because they don’t have to be cooked; they’re extremely mineral-rich, and have a great iron, iodine, calcium, and magnesium profile, with folic acid to boot. They’re also very low in calories. Served fresh, they have a crunchy texture, but if you give them time to marinate in sauce, they’ll soften and feel much more like familiar pasta.
5. Konjac noodles. This is for the most daring diner. Created from the root of the konjac plant, which is native to Asia, these noodles are low in calories and high in soluble fiber. They come packaged in liquid that needs to be drained before using. Try not to be turned off by their slightly fishy scent; they actually taste neutral.
Now, those are newdles.
Intrigued by these options, but not sure how best to prepare them? Check out the May Month of Meals Experience, an independent project from Clean Plates research consultant Ashley Spivak.