Alternative Pastas

Published March 1, 2005.

We tested five kinds of unconventional spaghetti to see how they tasted.

Overview:

Nowadays, even the least ambitious supermarkets are stocking alternative-grain pastas alongside standard semolina wheat pastas. Fad diets and food allergies aside, how do they taste? We bought five packages of unconventional spaghetti to find out.

Texture turned out to be the downfall of three of these pastas, which were gritty, shaggy, mushy, or overly delicate. A fourth ably passed the texture test, but some tasters found it "completely flavorless." Only the product made from spelt, a grain that's similar to wheat, got high marks across the board. (Unlike the other four pastas, however, this brand is not gluten-free.)

So where did we come out? On its own, the spelt product outperformed all others in the taste category. Matched with a substantial enough sauce, however, either of our two recommended pastas were nearly indistinguishable from semolina wheat pasta.

Nowadays, even the least ambitious supermarkets are stocking alternative-grain pastas alongside standard semolina wheat pastas. Fad diets and food allergies aside, how do they taste? We bought five packages of unconventional spaghetti to find out.

Texture turned out to be the downfall of three of these pastas, which were gritty, shaggy, mushy, or overly delicate. A fourth ably passed the texture test, but some tasters found it "completely flavorless." Only the product made from spelt, a grain that's similar to wheat, got high marks across the board. (Unlike the other four pastas, however, this brand is not gluten-free.)

So where did we come out? On its own, the spelt product outperformed all others in the taste category. Matched with a substantial enough sauce, however, either of our two recommended pastas were nearly indistinguishable from semolina wheat pasta.

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