So why would we mess with a perfectly good meal, serving up pasta that doesn’t contain wheat gluten – arguably pasta’s most fundamental ingredient? To find out, I gathered together the taste test crew for a true gluten-free pasta feast, complete with warm candlelight, wine, and sauce-flecked cheeks. The only thing missing was the gluten. And, as you’ll see, we didn’t miss it a bit!
Being raised by an Italian mother, I don’t need to be convinced to finish my plate when it comes to a good pasta. Give me a skinny spaghetti, a soft spiral, a fettucine, fusilli or penne, pour over whatever sauce you like, add a clove or five of garlic, and watch me do the clean-and-jerk with my twisting fork without a single aeroplane game. I’m not alone in my appreciation of pasta, though. Compare menus of most of the restaurants and cafes in your neighbourhood and you’ll almost always find a pasta dish in the repertoire, and sometimes even several.
So why would we mess with a perfectly good meal, serving up pasta that doesn’t contain wheat gluten – arguably pasta’s most fundamental ingredient? The term gluten-free is becoming something of a buzzword in the food and health scenes. The shelves of health food shops, and some supermarkets, are stacked with gluten-free alternatives for everything from breakfast cereal to night creams. Obviously for those people with severe allergies and conditions, including coeliacs, gluten can be a dangerous ingredient; so the use of gluten-free products is essential. But what exactly makes these products a better choice for the average health-conscious shopper?
According to Donna Melling, founder of innovative web-based business GlutenFreeMe, a gluten-free lifestyle is ideal for optimum health. She claims that gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, kamut and barley, and when this protein enters our digestive system, our bodies often interpret it as an invading bug, thus engaging our auto-immune system. The result is a general reaction of symptoms, anything from colds and flu to thrush, and even chronic illness.
When you consider the amount of gluten being used by food manufacturers today, it seems our bodies are under siege. Donna argues that prolonged avoidance of gluten in our diets can improve both our short-and long-term health dramatically. Of course, this is just a snapshot of the issue, but it sure makes parting with my wheat-based pasta paradigm easier. So the big question for we pasta-lovers is: just what are these healthier options like on the tastebuds?
To find out, I gathered together the taste test crew for a true pasta feast, complete with warm candlelight, wine, and sauce-flecked cheeks. The only thing missing was the gluten. And, as you’ll see, we didn’t miss it a bit!
Please note that trying to cook up several pots of pasta in one sitting doesn’t necessarily make for a realistic experiment. As we all know, a good pasta is all about timing, and try as we might, even with our expert ‘foodies’, we can’t fool ourselves that we achieved the perfect al-dente in all cases. To get a true sense, this Italian mama suggests you have your very own gluten-free pasta feast to try the products for yourself.
For stockists phone 07 3805 4499 or check out leading health shops and supermarkets
We tried: Rice Spirals
Also available: Rice Spaghetti, Macaroni and Fettucine
The upside: Bretty said this had a “light, grainy texture”.
Moo agreed, commenting that it was “light, pleasant rice taste”.
The downside: Matty Mc wasn’t convinced: “Quite gluggy. Not firm enough.”
For stockists phone 07 5546 7582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We tried: Organic Gluten-Free Shells
Also available: Organic Gluten-Free Macaroni and Fettucine
The upside: Libstar thought this was “soft, but with a nice shape and flavour”.
Moo commented that the taste was “heavy and filling, in a satisfying way; soaks the sauce well”.
The downside: Tizza disagreed, saying the shells were “a bit gluggy; too filling”.
THE GLUTEN-FREE CO
For stockists phone 07 5546 7582 or email email@example.com
We tried: Organic Gluten-Free Quinoa and Rice Fusilli
Also available: Organic Gluten-Free Quinoa and Rice Spaghetti
The upside: Freddy, our Sydney visitor, liked this “very firm pasta, great texture and taste”.
Matty Maximus thought it had an “interesting and likeable texture”.
The downside: Lachlan, however, found it “okay but too soft”.
For stockists phone 1300 303 794 or 02 8231 4400 or check out www.spiralfoods.com.au
We tried: Gluten-Free Conchiglie
Also available: Gluten-Free Fettucine and Macaroni
The upside: Chani Banani commented that this pasta had a “lovely soft texture; smooth and yummy”.
Bretty was equally enthusiastic: “Light and fluffy. Heavenly. Fun to eat.”
The downside: Matty Mc said it was “a bit like gnocci; a bit too soft for me”.
For stockists call 02 9974 3458 or check out www.bioliving.com.au
We tried: Gluten-Free Elbows
Also available: Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Spirals
The upside: Lachlan said this was “nice”. (in his usual 10-year-old descriptive manner!)
I thought it was “Excellent. Holds the sauce well. Great taste.”
The downside: Matty Mc commented that it was “a bit grainy in texture”.
PROBIOS (DISTRIBUTED IN AUSTRALIA BY OLIVE GREEN ORGANICS)
For stockist information call 02 9772 3772 or check out www.olivegreenorganics.com.au
We tried: Quinoa and Rice Gluten-Free Fusilli
Also available: Quinoa and Rice Gluten-Free Macaroni and Spaghetti
The upside: Tizza said this had a “lovely robust flavour; tasty and satisfying”.
Matty Mc was inspired by the ingredients. “Great. Quinoa is the way forward in gluten-free!”
The downside: Lachlan, again in his descriptive way, suggested it was “rubbery”.
We also tried: Corn and Rice Fusilli
Also available: Corn Penne and Spaghetti and Alphabets
The upside: Freddy thought it “Flavoursome. Enjoyed the corn taste.”
Chani Banani was also impressed. “Corn and rice are a good combo for a gluten-free pasta.”
The downside: Moo, however, found it “a little sticky”.
For stockists phone 03 9776 9044 or check out www.orgran.com
We tried: Gluten-Free Spirals Also available: Gluten-Free Spaghetti, Rigati, Shells, Corkscrew, Animal Shapes
The upside: Bretty thought this had “excellent body and flavour”. I thought this pasta had a “great consistency and taste; wholesome”.
The downside: Libstar said it was “a bit bland, but holds well”.
For stockist information call 02 6672 5882 or check out www.ozganics.com.au
We tried: Certified Organic Summer Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce
Also available: Certified Organic Spring Vegetable and Tomato Pasta Sauce
To accompany the pastas, and make for a fair comparison, Tizza made a big pot of napoli sauce using Ozganics Summer Tomato and Basil sauce. It was a simple yet delicious sauce. Though we will likely do a thorough review of pasta sauces in a later taste test, I wanted to briefly mention this one since it is made with all natural and organic ingredients, and we were all impressed with the taste.
Thanks to Donna Melling of GlutenFreeMe Consultancy Services for the brief lowdown on gluten-free. Thanks also to all of the food manufacturers who are working hard behind the scenes to produce healthy and tasty gluten-free alternatives for our pasta meals. Thanks to Tizza for his to-die-for sauce-cooking skills, to Matty Mc and again Tizza for juggling dozens of pots of pasta on the stove, and to all of the taste-test crew for their tasting and commenting. Mama would be proud.
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