Today, there are various types of "pasta" on the market to accommodate people with allergies or intolerances, as well as vegans, vegetarians or those who are simply looking for healthy alternatives.
For people who are allergic to wheat, there are many whole grain pastas made from buckwheat, corn, quinoa and rice. And for those who do not eat grains, there are pastas made from legumes, nut flours and vegetables like zucchini, sweet potatoes and squash.
What we know as "pasta" originated in Italy, and pasta means paste in Italian. It is made by mixing ground grain or flour with liquid (eggs, water and/or oil). While many different cultures ate some sort of noodle-like food, composed mostly of grain, the key characteristics of pasta are durum wheat semolina, with a high gluten content, made with a technique that allows the resultant dough to be highly malleable.
There are ways to elevate your pasta dishes with easy techniques and simple ingredients.
Add shiitake "bacon"
Shiitake "bacon" gives pasta dishes a comforting, umami-rich flavor. Simply trim and thinly slice half a pound of shiitake mushrooms, toss mushrooms with two tablespoons olive oil and a half teaspoon of salt. Bake until crisp, stirring once, about 20 minutes.
Get creative with pesto
Pesto can be made with anything from herbs, to leafy greens, to the tops of carrots or beets. Adding it to pasta dishes is a great way to get key vitamins and nutrients from green varieties like spinach, arugula or parsley. Our favorites are arugula-walnut pesto and carrot top pesto.
Include cheese alternatives
Hosting a gathering and serving pasta? Make sure there are dairy-free alternatives for those who are intolerant or allergic when it comes to cheese and sauces. Try making cheese using nuts and soy! Make one quart of tofu ricotta by mixing a pound of firm tofu (pressed), two tablespoons of lemon juice, one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, one teaspoon of minced garlic, one tablespoon of white miso and one teaspoon of umeboshi paste in a food processor and process until smooth.
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Spiralize your veggies
If you are cutting down on carbohydrates or looking for a healthy alternative to traditional pasta, spiralizing or making ribbons out of your vegetables successfully mimics our beloved pasta noodles while adding nutrients, such as beta carotene, vitamin C and fiber from sweet potatoes or potassium, folate and vitamin A from zucchini. Try sweet potato noodles with sage-brown butter sauce for a comforting dish.
Keep it simple
You do not need a lot of ingredients to elevate your pasta dish. Infused oil, roasted garlic and stewed vegetables can make a delicious dish that requires very little work.
By the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education
Even more ways to up your pasta game: