My Top Three Picks for the Best Gluten Free Pasta
November 08, 2013
When people first get diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, one of the things they mourn most is having to give up "regular" wheat-based pasta. That's certainly what happened with our family over eight years ago when our not-quite-two-year-old was diagnosed with Celiac. We thought, "Will he -- or we -- ever eat lasagna or Penne Bolognese again?"
Fortunately, as you, too, have probably discovered, there's quite a selection of gluten free pastas on the shelves of grocery stores, and with each passing year, the choices get even better. Now even "mainstream," non-specialty stores typically offer at least a few varieties. Tinkyada, Schar, and Bionaturae are some of the easiest ones to find, and there's even a quinoa-based one called Ancient Harvest.
And just yesterday I noticed one of the coupons given to me upon checkout at my local Giant grocery store was for Barilla's new gluten free pasta! Really? That's pretty huge...a big mainstream company like that offering gluten free pasta. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given that Ronzoni also came out with a gluten free pasta a couple months ago. While our family enjoyed it -- and looks forward to trying Barilla's, too -- we've narrowed our gluten free pasta preferences down to these TOP three picks, based primarily on taste...but also on other important factors:
RP's Gluten Free Pasta
RP's Pasta is the only fresh (not dried) gluten free pasta I'm aware of -- and that we've tried. It is absolutely divine -- pasta just like you remember! It's made from a combination of brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch (and a few other ingredients, including egg).
The easiest way to buy it is probably via Amazon.com, but you can try to find it in a store near you, using the Store Locator on RP's website. (We buy it at MOM's Organic Market in the Washington DC suburbs, and I know it's stocked at select Whole Foods markets, too). You'll find it in the refrigerated section, and it can stay refrigerated or be kept frozen. If you do freeze it, I'd recommend letting it thaw for a bit before cooking it, so the pasta doesn't stick together in the pot. Best results are achieved if you can carefully separate the fettuccine or linguine noodles as you put them into the gently boiling water. (Spinach Fettuccini and Fusilli is also available.) This pasta only needs about 2-3 minutes to cook at a gentle boil, so don't get distracted while it's cooking. You'll want to stay close to test it for doneness so you can drain the pasta in a colander at just the right moment. The result will be pasta you'll swear can't possibly be gluten free! (Be sure to mix the pasta with a bit of olive oil after draining so it doesn't stick together.)
RP's also makes gluten free lasagna, which requires no boiling before layering with meat sauce and cheese prior to baking. We tried these RP's lasagna sheets for the first time a few weeks ago, and the lasagna turned out great.
RP's Pasta isn't cheap, but I think you'd agree it's worth a bit of a splurge. It's just oh-so-good! Amazon.com has the best deal -- $5.25 for a package which feeds 2 hungry people as the main course. (Note that Amazon.com doesn't sell the lasagna noodles.)
Jovial Foods Gluten Free Pasta
Another family favorite is the Jovial Foods line of gluten free pastas. They offer penne, spaghetti, capellini, fusilli, caserecce (our favorite), tagliatelle, and lasagna varieties. While I've been trying to avoid buying most brown rice pastas due to concerns about arsenic levels in rice, Jovial is made from organic whole grain rice gown exclusively in Italy, where arsenic levels are not as high as they are in the southern part of the U.S. where much of the rice we all typically eat is grown.
Jovial gluten free pastas result in a nice, firm, al dente texture if you cook them for a minute or two less than the directions on the box specify. Again, I typically stay close and test the pasta for doneness as it's nearing it's time limit. You obviously don't want it crunchy, but you don't want it mushy, either. As with RP's Pasta or any gluten free pasta I'm cooking, I put a bit of olive oil in the pot -- and toss with more olive oil after draining in a colandar to prevent the pasta from sticking -- and to help with the absorption of lycopene and other fat-soluble nutrients found in tomato sauces. Jovial Foods gluten free pastas are starting to show up in more stores, and all varieties are available on Amazon.com.
Le Veneziane Gluten Free Pasta
Never heard of Le Veneziane gluten free pasta? I'm not surprised. We had the good fortune to stumble on this special gluten free pasta while dining at a restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia last spring. Wow -- were we impressed. We had to ask the waiter if he was sure it was gluten free! It looked, tasted, and held up like regular pasta. I asked the waiter to write down the name of the brand, but I wasn't sure where I'd be able to find it in the States. Well, lo and behold, Amazon.com now sells it, and I just ordered a package of six 8.8 oz boxes. It is pricey (if you take advantage of the bulk discount the six 8.8 oz boxes end up being about $4 per 8.8 oz. box). But again, I'd say it's worth paying a bit more to have really good gluten free pasta on occasion.
In addition to the fantastic taste and texture of Le Veneziane gluten free pasta, I like the fact that it's imported from Italy. Why? Because it's a corn-based pasta, and unlike most corn-based pastas made in the U.S., it wouldn't be made from genetically modified (GMO) corn, because Europe doesn't allow genetically modified corn the way we do in the United States. Just as I try to avoid buying rice-based pastas that source rice from parts of the U.S. where arsenic levels are high, I try to avoid corn-based pastas made in the U.S., where genetically modified corn is the norm.
So there you have it...three amazing gluten free pastas that may just be better for your body as well! Have you discovered any gluten free pastas you'd recommend? What's your favorite "everyday" gluten free pasta? How how about for that special splurge?