What are gluten-free pasta made of

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Pasta in all shapes and colors is one of the most popular foods in the world. It is easy to prepare and in countless variations and has therefore found a place in practically every kitchen in the world. It is of course all the more sad if you have to do without this food due to a gluten intolerance or an allergy. But there are now a variety of gluten-free alternatives. Below you will find out why making gluten-free pasta is so complicated, and the large comparison test will help you find your favorite pasta.




Gluten forms the basic structure in conventional pasta


Pasta is usually made from the durum wheat semolina of a special type of wheat, the so-called durum wheat. It is above all gluten (the so-called gluten protein) that gives pasta its unique properties. When cooking pasta, it forms a supporting framework, the spaces between which are filled by a network of starch chains (see Figure 1). This network prevents, for example, starch from being washed out and the pasta becoming too sticky, and thus ensures the excellent cooking properties of pasta.


Illustration 1: Comparison of the structure of conventional pasta with gluten (left) and gluten-free pasta (right).

Gluten-free pasta is usually made from the starch of various starchy foods, e.g. B. corn, potatoes, rice or millet produced. Their chemical structure is completely different from that of conventional pasta. In gluten-free pasta there is no basic structure made of proteins, but the structure is primarily determined by the structure of the starch network. It is a major technological challenge for manufacturers to use suitable recipes to imitate the taste and texture of conventional pasta. Even after many years, many types of gluten-free pasta are clearly inferior to conventional pasta in terms of both taste and cooking properties. In addition, they also do worse in terms of nutrient content. However, our large comparison test shows that with the right choice you can definitely experience real pasta enjoyment.


The big comparison test


In our test, we put 19 different types of gluten-free pasta through their paces. All test candidates were acquired by us independently and tested without any influence. The selection criterion for us was that the products should serve as an alternative to conventional pasta in terms of both appearance and taste. For this reason, we did not consider products made from chickpeas, buckwheat or lentils, because their taste differs significantly from conventional pasta. To ensure a consistent result, we focused on Penne in the test. Unfortunately, Edeka and Rewe did not offer gluten-free penne, which is why we tested Fusilli from these providers. Different pasta shapes can, however, have quite a different taste and are therefore difficult to compare with each other. Therefore, these two products run a little out of competition.

The majority of the test candidates rely on corn flour (pure or with a proportion of other starchy flours) and some also on emulsifiers, which improve the structure of the pasta. Two test candidates were made from 100% rice flour. In terms of price, the test candidates differ significantly (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Overview of the price in € per 100 g of all gluten-free test candidates. Organic products are highlighted in green.

In order to be able to evaluate the different varieties uniformly, they were all boiled in exactly the same amount of salted water according to the cooking instructions. In most cases it was necessary to cook the pasta 1–2 minutes longer than specified. For this reason, each test candidate was tested several times in order to achieve the best possible cooking result and to rule out fluctuations in preparation. The different varieties were then tasted blindly. In the following slide show you can find out the results of all varieties in an individual test.


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The test candidates in the individual test


Alnavit - organic whole grain penne
One of two test candidates made from whole-grain rice flour comes from Alnavit. Unfortunately, the pasta does not have good stability after cooking and disintegrates as soon as you pierce it with a fork. Overall, they don't have a nice texture, and unfortunately they don't have a nice bite either. Unfortunately, the pasta cannot convince us at all, especially because it is one of the most expensive test candidates.

Overall verdict: inadequate
Edeka - Fusilli
At Edeka, we test the gluten-free fusilli, as there is no penne on offer. Unfortunately, some of the pasta disintegrates while cooking. The taste test confirms our fears - unfortunately the pasta does not have a nice texture and it lacks firmness. In terms of taste, the Fusilli unfortunately belong to the bottom of the test.

Overall verdict: sufficient
Combino - free from GLUTEN Penne (Lidl)
Lidl's own brand Combino is being tested. The pasta has a very floury structure and unfortunately cooks very unevenly. This means that the very small penne are slimy on the outside and hard on the inside. Unfortunately, the noodles do not convince us in terms of taste and therefore we do not recommend them, even if they are the cheapest test candidate.

Overall verdict: sufficient
Barilla - Penne Rigate gluten-free
The gluten-free penne from Barilla are starting with a new recipe. Unfortunately, the predecessor couldn't convince us at all in terms of taste and mouthfeel and tended to disintegrate. The new recipe helps at least with the latter point of criticism, the pasta no longer disintegrates so easily. Unfortunately, the penne still didn't fully convince us in terms of taste.

Overall verdict: sufficient
Hammer mill - penne
Hammermühle's gluten-free pasta has a slight taste of its own like popcorn. Unfortunately, the mouthfeel is not particularly good, the structure is simply too floury or grainy for us and the pasta also becomes slightly slimy when cooked. When we cool down, we like the noodles from Hammermühle better than freshly cooked.

Overall verdict: sufficient
Take Eat Free - Penne
Unfortunately, the Take Eat Free Penne only had a place in the lower third of the test field in the test. The texture is just too grainy and floury, and because the pasta gets sticky when cooked, it doesn't have a nice mouthfeel overall.

Overall verdict: sufficient
felicia organic penne
The penne from Felicia have a very coarse, floury and grainy structure and do not have particularly good firmness. The organic pasta unfortunately only scores below average in terms of taste.

Overall verdict: satisfying
Rewe free from - Fusilli
The second Fusilli in the test come from Rewe. Unfortunately, these also disintegrate during cooking. On the other hand, the noodles have a good firmness and taste okay.

Overall verdict: satisfying
Spar - free from Penne
Spar is sending gluten-free penne made from corn and rice flour into the race. The noodles must be cooked about 5 minutes longer than specified before they are ready to be eaten. During the taste test, it quickly becomes apparent why this is so: the pasta is very thick-walled, which significantly affects the taste experience. It's actually a shame, because the taste of the penne would be good in and of itself.

Overall verdict: satisfying
Seitz - organic brown rice penne
From Seitz, noodles made from wholemeal rice flour are in the running. After we find the noodles from Alnavit (the other candidate made from rice flour) disappointing, we are pleasantly surprised by the Seitz noodles - good firmness and a homogeneous structure with a pleasant mouthfeel. We just don't like them that much when they have cooled down. The noodles have a light rice flavor and are a good alternative if you cannot or do not want to use corn noodles.

Overall verdict: Well
Farabella - Penne Lisce
We are testing the Penne Lisce variety from Farabella. This has a smooth surface and a thinner wall than Penne Rigate. As a result, they clearly differ in taste from their fluted competitors. The pasta is convincing in terms of taste, but it quickly loses its structure and good bite if you cook it a little too long.

Overall verdict: Well
Grand Mere - Penne
The most expensive product in the test unfortunately cooks a bit unevenly, so that part of it is already soft, while other noodles are still a bit too hard. The pasta gets a bit sticky on the outside when cooked, but it tastes good.

Overall verdict: Well
Schär - Penne
The penne from Schär have a slightly crumbly structure and a floury taste. On the other hand, they score with good firmness and a good price-performance ratio.

Overall verdict: Well
SamMills - Gluten Free Pasta d'oro Penne Rigate
The penne from SamMills have a rather coarser structure and taste clearly like corn. The bite is good and the pasta is also convincing in terms of taste.

Overall verdict: Well
Rummo - Penne Rigate No. 66
We liked the taste of the penne from the Italian manufacturer Rummo. Unfortunately, the penne are relatively thick-walled, which affects the mouthfeel a little.

Overall verdict: Well
dennree - penne
Dennree's gluten-free noodles taste good. They have the longest cooking time of all test candidates and are a bit slimy and slightly floury after cooking. Nevertheless, they have a good firmness to the bite. Here you can get a lot of gluten-free pasta in organic quality for your money.

Overall verdict: Well
dialsí - penne rigate
We like the Dialsí brand very much in the test. The noodles have a nice bite and a pleasant texture and also convince in terms of taste. Overall, a very successful gluten-free pasta.

Overall verdict: very good
Le Asolane - Penne Rigate
Le Asolane Penne are excellent in taste, have a good bite and a great mouthfeel. The Le Asolane brand is fortified with inulin to increase the fiber content. Sensitive people with irritable bowel symptoms should therefore carefully test whether they can tolerate this pasta, as inulin can have a flatulence effect.

Overall verdict: outstanding
Le Veneziane - Penne rigate
The second gluten-free pasta from Molino di Ferro in the test can convince in all respects and becomes our clear test winner. Cornmeal pasta has a nice texture, a great taste and also a nice firmness - just as you would expect from good pasta. The only downer: in Germany you can get pasta almost exclusively through mail order.

Overall verdict: outstanding
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Conclusion


We were surprised by the wide range of fluctuations in the quality of gluten-free pasta (see Figure 3).


Figure 3: All test candidates in total­overview on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (excellent).

It seems that many manufacturers have not yet found the optimal recipe for a high-quality pasta. The main thing is the high quality of the raw materials - with a few exceptions, the more expensive products performed better in the test. We can really recommend three candidates without reservation: Le Veneziane and Le Asolane from Molino di Ferro and dialsí from dialcos. Both manufacturers come from Italy and show the competition how to make good gluten-free pasta. Their varieties are characterized by a delicious taste and good structure and firmness. Unfortunately, you will rarely find them in the supermarket, but it is definitely worth bringing them with you from vacation or ordering them from a specialized mail order company. However, some of the products that are regularly available in stores are also worth a closer look, here especially the pasta from Schär and Dennree can convince with a good price-performance ratio.

Gluten-free pasta in the cooled form was rather disappointing. Overnight in the refrigerator, it usually became brittle and dry and simply no longer tasted good. As a result, pasta salads are nowhere near the same quality as conventional pasta.

Overall, the quality spectrum was very broad, and there is certainly still some room for improvement in the future.


[Update 08/25/2020]: We re-tested the pasta from Barilla based on a new recipe and, with Rummo, included a new type of pasta in the test.


Are you affected by food intolerances?

Our app histamine, fructose & Co. contains all the important information.



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Tags: PastaNoodlesGluten FreeTest