What Is Palmini Pasta and How Does It Compare to Other Gluten-Free Pastas?

We find out if this is the tastiest gluten-free pasta on the market.

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September 23, 2019
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Layers of lasagna noodles and long strands of linguine covered in sauce, all tasting like regular pasta, but entirely gluten-free. Sound too good to be true? We plated up some of the most-popular gluten-free pastas including the new Palmini to see which are the best comfort foods. Several were even low in carbs or at least high in insoluble fiber, which if you do keto math, can cancel out some of the carbs. Here are notable options.

Palmini Pasta (pictured above)

Palmini pasta is made from heart of palm, the inner core of a bud from certain palm trees. When the heart of palm is trimmed and cooked, it resembles lasagna and linguini, but with only 3-4 grams of carbs, compared to 42 carb grams in a traditional serving of pasta. And the noodles even tasted enough like pasta to get on Shark Tank.

You may be familiar with hearts of palm from the salad bar; they’re the smooth, cylinder-shaped white veggie, sold in a jar or can. The Palmini pasta makers also cook and can the heart of palm, so the noodles are ready to eat.

“After seeing the popularity of zoodles, we thought of how the texture and color of another veggie — heart of palm — would make a great pasta alternative. It took us a while to get the shaping right, but soon, we couldn’t keep up with demand. Now we’ve solved that, and have even perfected the production process so the noodles no longer need a milk bath before serving. Palmini noodles absorb the flavor of any sauce [they’re] served in,” says Alfonso Tejada, Business Director at Palmini Pasta.

As a bonus, Palmini harvests heart of palm sustainably, in a way similar to cutting a stem from an herb plant. This method allows the same domesticated palm to be used continuously for over a decade, according to Tejada.

Nutritionals: 20 calories, 4 g carbohydrate, 2 g total fiber, 2 g protein

These noodles are naturally low in carbs, grain-free, and 97% water. They are made simply using water and a flour ground from the bulb of a konjac plant, which has been eaten for centuries in Japan. The chewy, slippery noodles, which come in a liquid-filled bag to retain their texture, are high in soluble fiber. One of the most popular brands, Miracle Noodle was first brought to US markets after Jonathan Carp, MD, enjoyed eating them on his travels in Japan. “Miracle Noodle are almost impossible to overcook. The longer they simmer in a sauce, the more flavor they take on,” says Carp.

Nutritionals: 4 calories, 1 g carbohydrate, 2 g total fiber, 0 g protein

One of the most popular brands of chickpea pasta is Banza, but we liked the taste, texture and ingredient list on Barilla Chickpea pasta better. The only ingredient is chickpea flour. And when we cooked up the Barilla Chickpea Rotini following the fun infographic instructions, we had perfectly tender-but-toothsome pasta. “Follow the instructions exactly as listed on the box, including starting your timer for 7 minutes right when you add the pasta to the boiling water,” says Lorenzo Boni, Barilla’s executive chef. The flavor of the nutty chickpeas complements cheese-based sauces like this Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce.

Nutritionals: 190 calories, 34 g carbohydrate, 8 g total fiber, 13 g protein

There are several gluten-free pastas on the market made with corn flour and rice flour to mimic the look, texture and taste of regular pasta. The Schär company has been making gluten-free pasta in Trieste, Italy, for over 35 years – which was way before the general public understood what gluten even was. “Customers like our noodles because they are budget-friendly, but not gummy or flavorless,” says Danielle Basu, marketing assistant at Schär.

Nutritionals: 200 calories, 43 g carbohydrate, <1 g total fiber, 4 g protein

Frozen Gluten-Free Pasta

“The key to a handmade fresh/frozen gluten-free pasta that has the al dente texture of regular pasta is gluten-free wheat starch,” explains Dawn Wilson, chef/owner of Vicini Pastaria in St. Louis and Chicago. Wilson said she experimented with making fresh pasta using buckwheat, corn, rice and other flours; but until she incorporated wheat starch, they just weren’t quite right. While wheat starch has been used in gluten-free products for decades in Europe, it was only recently approved by the FDA for use in gluten-free products in the US. For the best cooked texture of any frozen gluten-free pasta, including hers, Wilson suggests pouring frozen pasta directly into boiling water without thawing it.

Nutritionals: not available

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist, food writer, and recipe developer. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com and is the author of the best-selling The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Instagram.

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