Noodles are such a fundamental food that every major culture around the world independently invented them on their own, made with a wide variety of grains. But Italy’s homegrown version of noodles – pasta – has become the best known thanks to the huge variety in variations and shapes, and Italy’s historical innovation in dressing noodles with tomato sauces.
Pasta is one of those foods that shouldn’t really require gluten, but always contains it. Traditionally, it is made from a wheat that is naturally low in gluten, but wheat nonetheless. Other than the dough sticking together enough to maintain a shape, there is not much need for structural support in pasta.
Which is a good thing if you can’t eat wheat.
But there is something special about wheat when it comes to noodles, aside from the gluten. There are a lot of different gluten-free pasta/noodles available, and most of them are pretty bad.
Here are three that I like:
Tinkyada was the first good pasta I found. It’s all-rice, keeps together nicely, and has a good texture. Depending on the variety and how it’s used, it might actually pass for real pasta among non-GF people. They make a wide variety of shapes, some available in both white and brown rice varieties, though most are only made with brown rice.
Tinkyada elbow pasta is my favorite for making macaroni and cheese. The spaghetti and linguine noodles are quite nice, too, and I would use them more frequently if they were easier to find. Whole Foods carries most of their products, and I do see a small selection of them in other places from time to time.
Ancient Harvest makes gluten-free quinoa pasta. Well, really, they make corn pasta with some quinoa in it. Which is an important distinction because most corn pastas are quite horrible – they break easily and are prone to being gummy. Ancient Harvest’s “Supergrain” pasta used to avoid this, and it had a nice texture and taste, though it did not taste anything like real pasta. I used it as my go-to gluten-free pasta because it is readily available at our neighborhood Fresh & Easy.
I say “used to” because they appear to have changed their recipe in the last year, and now the noodles are very brittle and don’t have the same texture. Which is too bad. The new formula is not horrible, and it’s still better than other corn pasta products, but I have stopped buying it because of my new discovery…
My new favorite, go-to gluten free pasta is made by Barilla – one of the largest pasta manufacturers in the world! They have a small line of gluten-free pastas, made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. They are made with corn and rice, and they really got the texture and flavor right.
I have only tried the spaghetti, but it works well for sauces and pan frying. I look forward to trying the other shapes. The elbows have a different look than I’m used to, but that’s a pretty minor thing – they have exterior ridges which probably hold on to cheese nicely.
One nice thing is all the Barilla pasta is that it is all available through Amazon, and the spaghetti is available in single box quantities through the new Amazon Pantry program (which I love, and has a surprising amount of gluten-free items).
These are all dried pasta, of course. I haven’t seen any commercially-available fresh gluten-free pasta, though I do find one via Google: RP’s Pasta Gluten-Free Fresh Pasta, which are sold at Whole Foods. I will have to give that a try.
Noodles are a staple pantry item for me, and I’ve tried every gluten-free variety that I have seen. These three are the ones that are good – not just acceptable. But what is your favorite gluten-free pasta?