Have Your Pasta and Eat it Too
One trick to making lifelong dietary changes is to maximize the punch you get from everything you eat. Pasta lovers can get a lot more punch for the calories just by swapping traditional semolina-based pasta for the new legume-based varieties.
I went through just about every pasta alternative on the shelf (brown rice, quinoa, corn flour...) before discovering two great-tasting pastas: Banza's Chickpea pasta, and Bentilia's Red Lentil Pasta.
Banza's Chickpea pasta has four ingredients: Chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein, anthem gum. Bentilia's Red Lentil pasta has one ingredient: red lentils.
Both are available through Amazon. There are a lot more varieties of Bentilia's available now than the last time I ordered (including an option for 8 individual 12-ounce packages instead of the great big 5 pound box mine arrived in.) There are also several varieties, including rotini, shells, and spaghetti.
Both varieties cook up the same as regular pasta. Be careful not to overcook either variety; al dente is the key. My trick is to listen for the shells "clanking" together when I stir the pot; when the sounds turns to soft thuds instead of clanks they're ready to drain (apologies to everyone out there who actually knows how to cook). It's easier to gauge the doneness of the red lentil pasta: watch the color. As soon as it looses its red color it's ready to drain and eat.
Like most gluten-free pastas, neither of these legume pastas store well as leftovers, so I only make as much as we plan to eat immediately. However, if I want to make a meal ahead, I use the chickpea pasta, which is a little less mushy after a night in the fridge.
Did I mention they both taste really great?
The front on Banza's box promises "25 g protein and 13 g" fiber, but the small print is that these numbers are for a 3.5 ounce serving rather than the standard 2 ounce. (Naughty!) However, on their nutrition label they include the required 2 ounce numbers in addition to the 3.5 ounce numbers. Bentilia uses a 2.6 ounce serving for it's label so I had to do a little conversion so we can look at a side-by-side comparison.
Here's the take away:
- Calorie-wise, whole-grain wheat, chickpea, and red lentil are similar per 57-gram serving: 180, 190, 205.
- Fiber is close, too: 7, 8 and 6 grams, making all three better than the typical 2 grams you'd get per serving of traditional pasta made from semolina and duram flour.
- The legume pastas have more sodium (60 mg and 25 mg) than the variety of whole-wheat shown (0), but are still less than 2% - 3% of the daily recommendations for most people (2,300 mg; 1,500mg if you're over 50).
- The big different is the protein: 8 grams in whole wheat compared to 14 grams in both the legumes, making legume pasta a can't-go-wrong option.
Pair either the chickpea or red lentil pasta with Wicked Healthy "Cheese" Sauce and you'll have a nutrient-packed, gluten free, dairy-free, oil-free, sugar-free vegan version of a classic comfort food you'll want to eat every day.