The Food Haul

This Is the Best-Tasting Alternative to White-Flour Pasta (Spoiler: It’s Not Made From Chickpeas)

Our latest installment of The Food Haul.

April 21, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

There’s never been a more exciting time to stock your kitchen—just ask food writer Adam Roberts, who’ll be diving into all things groceries in The Food Haul. This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Anyone who knows me knows this much: Pasta is my favorite food.

Pasta is the first thing that I eat when I get back from a trip. Pasta is what I ask for on my birthday. Pasta is what I serve my husband, Craig, on our anniversary—even when he asks for scallops. It’s what I cook when I get good news. Or bad news. Pasta is the meal that I want on my deathbed, and also the first meal that I want when I get to heaven, assuming they serve pasta in heaven. (If they don’t serve pasta, it’s definitely not heaven.)

Since pasta is a main character at my dinner table, I decided that the time was finally ripe to explore the vast (and I mean vast) world of alternative pastas.

Don’t believe me? Just head to your grocery store and check out the rows and rows of alternative pastas next to the De Cecco and Barilla. You’ll find alternative pastas made from edamame, brown rice, black beans, lentils, mung beans, and even kelp. Name an ingredient, and you can probably find an alternative pasta made from it. Peanut butter pasta? Asparagus pasta? French onion soup pasta? They either exist or they’re about to. (Kidding—sort of.)

For my taste test, I decided to concentrate on three brands of alternative pastas.

The first happened upon me before I happened upon it. Tumminia Busiate ($15 from Gustiamo), which my friend Ben Mims, the Los Angeles Times recipe columnist, used to serve with his four-hour Bolognese when I went over to his house for dinner. He didn’t know that I was writing this column, but when I told him about it, he eagerly showed me the packaging.

Calling Tumminia Busiate an alternative pasta is kind of like calling Coldplay alternative rock: It’s a bit of a stretch. The stuff is made from flour, only instead of highly processed white flour, the flour is stone-ground from durum wheat semolina. Not just any durum wheat, however—Tumminia is an ancient variety with roots in Sicily. According to the website, “Tumminia is very digestible and even suitable for people with some wheat sensitivities” and “rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein,” too.

Purported health benefits aside, for Filippo Drago—the Sicilian grain miller, bread baker, and pasta maker behind the brand—it all comes down to taste: “It’s not a penance, it’s a joy,” he says.

Hear, hear, Filippo Drago. And I’m here to tell you that of the three alternative (or semi-alternative) pastas that I sampled, this one was easily my favorite. The pasta itself had a nuttiness and a rough texture that played beautifully with the Bolognese, but I can also understand why Drago says he likes to eat his plain with just a little olive oil. It’s just that good.

I suppose it’s not that shocking to learn that I loved this imported, hand-crafted (and yes, pricey) pasta from Italy so much. So let’s talk about another hand-crafted pasta from Italy that I tried: Monograno Felicetti Farro Fusilli Pasta ($8.99 from the Felicetti website). The idea of farro pasta greatly appealed to me because I like farro in and of itself. Tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, toasted nuts, raisins, and goat cheese, farro makes for a great lunch—only the texture can be unpredictable if you don't boil it long enough. Transforming it into pasta seemed like a potential win-win for everyone.

If I were a true scientist (note: I’m not any kind of scientist), I would’ve sampled all of these pastas plain. Unfortunately, I’m a hedonist and decided to serve this pasta with a zesty puttanesca made with lots of garlic, anchovies, San Marzano tomatoes, and capers.

Turns out, this was a wise thing to do. Much like the Bolognese with the Tumminia, the sauce here melded so well with the fusilli, I didn’t think about it too much. Only, after chewing for a while and contemplating the pasta beneath the sauce, did I begin to notice a few unpleasant sensations on my palate. I opened my Notes app and wrote down the following:

  • Rubber bands
  • Pencil shavings
  • Hamster food

Unlike the Tumminia, which had a pleasant complexity, this had the undeniable whiff of what I can only describe as “health food.” Craig, who’s neither a scientist nor a hedonist, thought I was being dramatic. “It tastes fine,” he said. And truth be told, you could do a lot worse than farro pasta.

Like chickpea pasta, for example. This was my third and final experiment: Banza Chickpea Pasta ($3.39 from Target). Of all of the alternative pastas I’ve heard touted, chickpea pasta comes up the most frequently. It’s the one that I was most excited to try because I love chickpeas; I love putting them in salads, in soups, I even love smashing them with tahini and putting them on toast. Theoretically, grinding them up and turning them into a pasta makes good sense. That is until you taste it.

“Pathte!” I called from the kitchen, my mouth stuck together.

“What?” answered Craig.

“It tathtes like pathte,” I struggled to say, like Flick in A Christmas Story with his tongue frozen to a pole.

After tasting it straight out of the pot, I tossed the chickpea pasta with a sauce made from hot Italian sausage, lots of garlic, and broccoli. If those things weren’t there, I may have never opened my mouth again. Once incorporated, however, the chickpea pasta served its purpose. Was it good? Not particularly. Did it come anywhere close to a more traditional pasta? It did not. But if you’re comfortable with pasta not being the star of the dish, is it a decent alternative to white-flour pasta? I’ll go with yes.

What’s your favorite alternative pasta? Share in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Food blogger and cookbook author.


Sharon S. April 24, 2023
One more thing: you bring up "authentic" EVOO. My son has been extolling "real" olive oil, but they are all too expensive to sample, much as I'd love to. Could you sample some and recommend, for example, one for tossed salads, one for plain pasta, one for cooking, lightly flavored, peppery flavored, etc. 😊
Sharon S. April 24, 2023
Thanks! I've had the chickpea pasta in my pantry for a year! Every time I think about using it, I chicken out. I'll toss it now. Thanks for the recommendation!
Meghanssj April 24, 2023
I lol’d at “It tathtes like pathte”! Thank you for your hilarious honesty. 😆🍝
Whitney D. April 23, 2023
I wanted to like this post. I wish I could have enjoyed it, but when promised alternatives to white wheat pasta, I don't expect to see ancient wheat and Farro... Two pastas that anyone who can't eat gluten would still need to avoid. I also could have done without the mockery towards the number of alternative pastas. Having grown up around people with serious allergies, it's become so much easier and more affordable to find these alternatives. Adam might not enjoy them, but he also has the option to eat something else.

I just wish this article had been framed in a different way- it felt very clickbait, which is not what I expect on this site.
Debbie F. April 23, 2023
I’d like to point out that Adam didn’t promise a testing of gluten free pasta, the article and headline clearly state that he was trying out a few alternatives to white flour pasta, which is what he did. I agree that it would be great if Food52 did a research project on gluten free pastas, but that was neither the promise nor the scope of this article.
[email protected] April 23, 2023
I’m afraid you will get a lot of negative feedback about this because you have not done anything to help find an actual alternative to glutenous pasta.

My favorite GF pasta brand is Jovial. They use a lot of cassava, which is a great texture for pasta, unlike corn or rice or chickpeas.

I’d love for Food52 to do an actual taste test of the zillions of alternatives out there. 30% of Americans are avoiding commercial wheat gluten these days.
Kris April 23, 2023
To be clear….this article was not about alternative pasta. It’s about a very expensive pasta from Sicaly, a pasta made from a different grain and an actual gluten free pasta. There are corn pastas from Italy that are expensive and delish. So someone who has to eat something with out flour in it, did not benefit reading this article.
judy April 23, 2023
Interesting. Went to the linked website for this pasta. Noted on the box that it states in large letters "Farro" Ancient grain fusilli. but in the explanation of the product to the side, identifies Spelt as the ingredient. Further research indicated that Italians use the terms interchangeably, farro and spelt. but they re cutely different grains with different nutritional content. One cooke up firm and chewy, the other softer and creamier.
Eden April 23, 2023
Thank you for making me laugh so hard I almost snorted my morning coffee. I didn’t know how badly I needed that!!!!
Carly D. April 23, 2023
I find it rather annoying they this article claims to answer this question, when it does nothing of the sort. The best American-made heirloom grain pasta I’ve tried is Pastificio Boulder in Colorado, but I would actually like a definitive answer on the GF / non-grain pasta options, since we have family who can’t eat wheat or corn.
Lauren April 23, 2023
I'm curious why typical grocery store whole wheat pasta wasn't tested. The brands vary a lot, but if you live near an HEB or a Central Market, the CM Organic whole wheat pastas are by far the best I've tried. Maybe I'm just used to them at this point, but to me they taste like regular pasta.
Jackiessima April 23, 2023
GoGo Quinoa is my go to when I can find it. I enjoy the red and white macaroni.
Jbeick April 23, 2023
The Rummo gluten free (rice and corn pasta.)
ARBK April 23, 2023
It's $15 for 1 pound+ (not bad) but $7.75 for shipping (same on Amazon). Too high. They need to stock in US and cut shipping way down.
ARBK April 23, 2023
Barilla chickpea rotini is much better than Banza. I boil longer until consistency is right. But yes, it's not semolina!
Debbie F. April 22, 2023
I’m getting ready to try some whole wheat pasta imported from Italy this week. I’ll report back!
MADcitykin April 21, 2023
I like Banza's red lentil pasta (although I cook it for 2-3 minutes longer than the package directions) so I was kind of excited to try the chickpea version. My reaction was the same as yours! Not only does it taste like paste, it has the weirdest texture, kind of like circus peanuts. Who is eating this pasta & what are they cooking it with?
Carla F. April 21, 2023
I haven't tried a lot of alternative pastas, and most of the ones I have tried aren't worth it to me. But awhile ago, I stumbled upon House Foods Shirataki Traditional Noodles (made from white yam) and, for some reason, decided to give them a try. I rinsed them thoroughly to get rid of the fishy smell (probably from the calcium hydroxide in the ingredient list). Not being big on following directions, instead of boiling them, I drained them really well, blotted them with a kitchen towel. and sauteed them in a pan sprayed with avocado oil. I liberally doused them with tamari while they were frying. They have become my new go-to pasta, either with tamari or with bolognese. House Foods tofu shirataki are also good, but some other brands I've tried have been flabby and blah.The kelp noodles I tried were reminiscent of fishy rubber bands.