Healthy pastas for your summer BBQ

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Watch the report from Action News at 4 p.m. on July 3, 2017. (WPVI)

Looking for something different to take to a summer barbecue? How about a pasta salad made with beans, chickpeas or even quinoa - instead of wheat pasta? Consumer Reports put some options to the test.

We all love a good pasta salad, and Consumer Reports experts checked out some of these pasta alternatives to see which ones are tasty and nutritious.

There's a new twist on pasta, and they're not just made of wheat anymore.

Food experts came to the table and checked out pounds and pounds of pasta.

"We brought in 13 alternative pastas in total to evaluate for nutrition, taste, and texture," said Amy Keating from Consumer Reports. "We tried several varieties of each - black bean, red lentil, chickpea, and quinoa blends."

Overall their carb count is similar to regular pasta. But they are a good source of fiber.

And what about texture?

"A really good regular pasta shouldn't be mushy, crumbly or rubbery. But most of these fell short of that ideal, but could be improved as part of a recipe," said Keating.

Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini has a good black bean flavor, but on its own it had a slightly mushy, chalky texture.

When included in a salad some of the texture and flavor issues were minimized. A one-cup serving has about 15 grams of fiber.

Topping the chickpea versions is Explore Cuisine's Organic Chickpea Fusilli. It received good scores for nutrition. It has a slightly starchy bean-like flavor and a chewy texture.

This pasta pairs well with red sauce, and it's also good tossed with olive oil, cheese and fresh parsley.

Testers rated Ancient Harvest POW Red Lentil Rotini "very good." It has a clean, flavor that tastes of red lentils.

It goes well with red sauce, or a mixture of roasted veggies and a sprinkling of cheese.

Consumer Report's food team advises that for best results, follow the cooking directions carefully and don't overcook, as legume pastas can get mushy quickly.

Web EXTRA:

Alternative Pasta Recipes written by the Consumer Reports food team:

Black Bean Rotini with Corn, Avocado and Tomatoes
  1. Cook a 12-ounce package of Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini according to package directions.
  2. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  3. Combine pasta with 1 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted, 1 chopped red pepper, 2 chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped small red onion, 1 chopped avocado.
  4. In a small bowl, combine cup fresh lime juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Pour over ingredients; toss. Top with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

Chickpea Fusilli
  1. Cook an 8-ounce package of Explore Organic Chickpea Fusilli according to package directions.
  2. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss with cup olive oil; sprinkle with cup grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Red Lentil Rotini with Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 pint grape tomatoes and teaspoon each salt and black pepper on a rimmed sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add 2 cloves of garlic, sliced.
  4. Cook an 8-ounce package of Ancient Harvest POW! Red Lentil Rotini according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water and return to pot.
  6. Stir in cauliflower mixture, 5 ounces of baby spinach, cup grated Asiago cheese and enough pasta water to moisten.

Makes 4 servings.

For more information, visit: www.ConsumerReports.org

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