Food & Drink

Taste Test: The Best Alternative Grain Pastas (PHOTOS)

Some grains are all the rage, but that doesn't mean they make good pasta.
02/27/2014 07:00am ET | Updated February 27, 2014

Pasta is one of those comfort foods that we would eat every day if we could. With so many kinds of noodles and so many ways to cook them, it's impossible to tire of pasta. When it's cold out, nothing can top a big bowl of spaghetti with red sauce or parpadelle with ragu. When it's hot, a refreshing, zesty bowl of pesto on farfalle is just about the best thing ever.

With the recent obsession with gluten-free food and the growing awareness of grains other than wheat, however, traditional pasta -- the wheat kind, made with durum flour -- is getting a run for its money. All sorts of alternative grain pastas have hit the market -- and we're not just talking about whole wheat. From spelt and corn to farro and brown rice, pasta noodles come in all kinds of grains.

Not all alternative grain pastas are created equal, however. Some might be gummy, others too chewy and others flimsy. While some noodles might come close to resembling traditional Italian pasta, others are sad excuses for the good stuff. We at HuffPost Taste tried out eight varieties that people are eating as alternatives to pasta with durum wheat flour. While each type of pasta may boast its own health benefits, we focused on taste.

It turns out that while certain grains might be all the rage (ahem, quinoa), they might not work so well as pasta. Overall, pasta with alternative grains isn't so bad, and might actually be preferable, depending on how you approach it. Like a lot of foods people often deem as "substitutes" -- i.e.) eating a veggie burger instead of a beef burger or kale chips instead of potato chips -- alternative grain pasta is best when you don't compare it to the durum wheat kind. If you appreciate the pasta you've chosen as unique, instead of as a replacement for traditional Italian pasta, you'll probably enjoy it a whole lot more.

Here's how eight alternative grain pastas stacked up.

8
Quinoa Pasta (LAST PLACE)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"Horrible aftertaste. Tastes like glue." "The texture of this pasta is so grainy and unpleasant and the aftertaste is so impossibly bitter. Never again." "Terribly bitter!" "Tastes like a sand castle." "It crumbles in my mouth and tastes like Play-Doh."
7
Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Pasta (NOT RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"This kind of dissolves in my mouth and kind of tastes like cardboard." "This tastes like it has glue in it." "I have a strong hatred for this. So not pasta." "I kind of like this. It's clearly not regular pasta, but it has its own charm." "Kind of chalky."
6
Whole Wheat Pasta (NOT RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"Pretty good texture." "Sandpaper pasta." "Yuck, this tastes way too healthy and grassy." "Off-putting, earthy flavor. I don't like this." "It doesn't bend like normal spaghetti. And it tastes like bread."
5
Soybean Pasta (NOT RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"Rubber bands, omg." "Oh, this taste like boiled chopsticks." "Rubber bands, literally, right? These are rubber bands." "Fine taste, but rough cardboardy texture." "Tastes a lot like regular pasta, but a little chewier." "Not too different from regular angel hair -- I wouldn't guess it's different."
4
Whole Grain Pasta With Sprouted Wheatgrass (RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"This is good." "This just disintegrated in my mouth." "Regular whole wheat pasta, right?" "Not horrible, but a little nutty." "You can tell it's wheat, but I love it."
3
Farro Pasta (RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"Tastes like cinnamon." "Sawdust pasta." "This is just whole wheat pasta, right?" "Not too shabby." "Good flavor, wheaty." "Love the wheaty taste. I'd pick this over 'normal' pasta."
2
Brown Rice Pasta (RECOMMENDED)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"A little chewy but I'm into it." "These are rubber bands." "These are like egg noodles -- ♥." "Would probably be fine smothered in Alfredo sauce." "A little chewy but really good." "Nice, wheat flavor."
1
Kamut Pasta (WINNER)
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
"Slightly sweet," "very good -- tastes like the real thing (i.e. refined flour pasta)." "Has an oddly spiced flavor. Nutmeg or something?" "Tastes like real pasta, almost!""Ok, has an aftertaste." "Tastes pretty much like regular spaghetti, only there's a funky ending."

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Grilled Sea Scallops With Saffron Spaghetti, Vegetables And Fresh Herbs
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Pesto Alla Genovese
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Linguine With Gifts From The Sea
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