Noodles of choice: Eight new free-from pastas put to the taste test

By Roz Crowley

“YOU wouldn’t want to be on a budget if you decided to go gluten and any other-free”, said one of our shoppers. We were looking for alternative pastas to pure wheat, not just to please those who need to have gluten-free food, but as a change of taste and texture.

With any luck, we would find pasta with a bit more protein than usual so that a simple vegetable sauce or olive oil and a grating of cheese would satisfy a hungry family quickly. We also wanted value for money.

Speciality foods often come at a high price, and where our selection today was concerned, this was often the case when we costed per 100g. We were happy that all the pastas were low in salt and for the most part had few or no additives. Because of where ingredients came from, we noted lots of air miles. It’s hard to believe that any of our food needs to come from another continent.

Pasta serves as a vehicle for sauces, light or heavy, and when they are high in protein are very satisfying and help avoid snacking. Tasters noticed the difference.

We also looked at pasta aimed at children and Orgran farm animals rice and corn

vegetable pasta 200g €3.61(€1.80/100g) held its shape, but it was expensive. Children really don’t need animal shapes to enjoy food, and are best encouraged to eat with and like adults.

Marks & Spencer Made without Wheat Penne Pasta 500g €3 (60c/100g)

Made with gluten-free corn and rice flours, it has the emulsifier E471 (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), a common additive. The texture is good here and the penne stays firm to take substantial sauces. Tasters did not recognise it as a gluten-free product. Versatile and a good price.

Score: 9

Kelkin spaghetti made with corn and rice flour 500g €3.29 (65c/100g)

Corn and rice flours here have added emulsifiers mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471). Texture is good to hold sauces and even a simple drizzle of olive oil worked well. Protein is 6.5%, mainly from the rice, and fibre is 1.2%. Tasters liked it. Produced in Italy for Kelkin, Dublin. Good price.

Score: 8.5

Biofair rice quinoa spaghetti 250g €4.13 (€1.65/100g)

Gluten and egg free, rice and quinoa flour are the only two ingredients and they provide a low 1.8% fibre with protein a decent 10.7% from both the quinoa and rice. Texture is good. 13-15 mins to cook. Made a long way in Bolivia. We bought in Quay Co-op, Cork.

Score: 7

Profusion Red lentil organic fusilli 300g €4.55 (€1.51/100g)

Organic red lentil flour and water here deliver a moderate 5.9% fibre and a good 23% protein. The colour is attractive too. As well as protein, lentils are a source of B vitamins, good for the nervous system, but to be avoided by those with gout. The taste has a little lentil, and the texture shines with a good, firm bite. Gluten and grain free, From Here’s Health, Cork. An expensive option.

Score: 7.5

Liberto Organic endamame fettucine 200g €3.99 (€2/200g)

Made from organic green soy beans (endamame), as there are no grains here, it is boiled in just one to two minutes. The soybeans deliver a high 44% protein and a good 18% fibre, so useful for a quick gluten-free meal with oil or melted butter and lemon juice or chilli. Organic and GM-free, so the source is good, but there are the many miles from China to concern us, as well as the high price.

Score: 6.5

Leaves buckwheat and chickpea penne with garlic 300g €3.99 (€1.33/100g)

Made from organic buckwheat — a seed, not a grain — which can help improve circulation. There is also chickpea, a secondary protein which has some fibre, and garlic (all organic). The result is 6.9% fibre and a decent enough 16.4% protein. With a grainy texture, the garlic flavour comes through well. Quite high price. We bought in Quish’s SuperValu Ballincollig.

Score: 7.25

Bunalun wholegrain spelt fusilli 500g €3.59 (71c/100g)

Organic wholegrain spelt is an old grain type, which has been relatively untampered with. It is not gluten-free, and delivers a good 7.1% fibre and 13.3% protein, as expected from spelt. Firm and with a slightly nutty flavour, tasters were impressed. A recipe using lemon and Parmesan on the pack works well. Produced in Italy for National Organics Co Killarney. From SuperValu.

Score: 8.5

Freee by Doves Farm brown rice spaghetti 500g €3.19 (64c/100g)

Made only from organic brown rice flour, this is gluten and egg free. Some fibre at 3.2%, and at 7.5% there is some protein. Texture is firm and good to hold sauces. Made in Italy with ingredients from more than one country, due to the unreliable supply of the rice flour in the EU. Good price.

Score: 8

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