Whether you prefer it smothered in a hearty Bolognese or kissed with a delicate cream sauce, pasta is a comfort food favourite for good reason. Many of us turn to pasta when we’re in the mood for a quick, soul-warming dish, but it probably doesn’t top your list of better-for-you meal options. When nothing but noodles will do, however, a growing range of pasta made from flour alternatives is making it possible to enjoy your favourite recipes regardless of your health goals and dietary restrictions. From gluten-free noodles to high-protein varieties made from lentils, these are some of the best pasta alternatives to try the next time a spaghetti craving strikes.
Try it in: Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo
Made from ground chickpea flour, these nutrition-filled noodles can contain up to double the fibre and double the protein of wheat-based pasta. In addition to these potential personal health benefits, legumes like chickpeas have a low ecological footprint, making chickpea pasta a more sustainable meal choice than its grain-based counterparts. Chickpea pasta’s mild, slightly nutty flavour goes best with creamy carbonara and alfredo sauces, as well as with dishes featuring plenty of veggies.
Get the recipe: Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo
Black Bean Pasta
Try it in: 30-Minute Pasta with Green Garlic Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes
Another protein-packed alternative that’s ideal for fitness-minded eaters, black bean pasta has a distinctive dark colour and a pleasantly earthy taste. It’s typically made from dried black soybeans beans and its high fibre content makes it extra filling, so it’ll keep you feeling satiated for longer than wheat-based noodles (no late-night, post-dinner snacking needed). Black bean pasta is also gluten-free and high in iron. Try mixing it with simple, classic sauces like pomodoro or pesto. As with most gluten-free pasta, black bean pasta tends to become mushy when overcooked. It’s therefore best not to completely rely on the cooking time recommended on the packaging and, instead, start testing the pasta a few minutes before it’s supposed to be done in order to get the texture right.
Related: The Best Non-Dairy Milks to Meet All Your Needs (From Baking to Latte Frothing)
Brown Rice Pasta
Try it in: 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Beef Bolognese
Like chickpea pasta, brown rice pasta offers higher levels of fibre and protein than traditional noodles. Nutritionally, brown rice pasta is similar to whole wheat pasta but, unlike whole wheat pasta, it’s also suitable for those with gluten sensitivities. With a fairly neutral flavour and a chewy texture, it’s a great go-to when you’re looking for a no-fuss nutritional boost on pasta night. Brown rice pasta takes a little more time to cook than classic pasta, with its naturally al dente consistency helping it to hold up particularly well in hearty sauces and noodle soups.
Get the recipe: 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Beef Bolognese
Try it in: Spaghetti Puttanesca with Cauliflower
Containing all nine essential amino acids, as well as high levels of magnesium, iron, riboflavin, and calcium, quinoa is a health-conscious foodie favourite for good reason. Quinoa pasta delivers the better-for-you benefits of the classic grain plus its dense texture makes it less likely to turn into a sloppy mess if you overcook it by a minute or two. Many types of quinoa pasta are blended with other bases, such as white rice flour or corn flour, so take a good look at the ingredient label if you’re hoping to get the full nutritional benefits of a quinoa serving or have dietary sensitivities to consider.
Related: This Easy Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Cake Recipe Requires Just 10 Ingredients
Try it in: Pappardelle Duck Ragu
Spelt is a form of wheat that’s high in protein, fibre, magnesium, and B vitamins. Many people find it easier to digest than the durum wheat flour used to make traditional pasta, but keep in mind that spelt pasta does contain some gluten (although less than classic noodles) and it’s fairly high in carb content. Spelt pasta’s nuttier flavour pairs best with bold, meat- and tomato-based dishes, rather than creamier sauces. It’s also good at retaining its al dente texture when used in soups like minestrone or chicken noodle.
Try it in: 15-Minute Cheesy One-Pot Pasta
Gluten-free and high in fibre, corn pasta has a subtle flavour with a touch of sweetness. Its texture tends to be a bit grainier than traditional pasta, but it holds up well in sauces and can therefore be substituted easily into a range of different pasta dishes. Le Veneziane (italianmarket.ca, $2.99) is a non-GMO option that’s made in Italy, giving it that authentic Bel Paese-feel in spite of its non-traditional corn flour base. You can play up corn pasta’s natural flavour by adding it to a dish featuring fresh corn kernels or draw inspiration from corn’s frequent culinary partners-in-crime by creating a Southwestern-inspired pasta dish.
Get the recipe: 15-Minute Cheesy One-Pot Pasta
Looking for more pasta inspo? Check out these Macaroni Recipes That Will Satisfy All Your Pasta Cravings.