Taste Test: The Best Alternative Grain Pastas (PHOTOS)

Some grains are all the rage, but that doesn't mean they make good pasta.

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.

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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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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Before You Go

Penne With Tuna, Plum Tomatoes And Black Olives
Dana Gallagher
Common kitchen staples take on a Mediterranean flair when tossed together in this penne pasta dish with tuna, plum tomatoes and black olives.Get the recipe for Penne with Tuna, Plum Tomatoes and Black OlivesThis recipe is one of Judith Jones' meals for one
Pasta With Walnut Pesto, Sausage And Broccoli Rabe
Sang An
Rigatoni and sausage get a nutritious boost from walnut pesto and broccoli rabe.Get the recipe for Pasta with Walnut Pesto, Sausage and Broccoli RabeThis recipe is part of our superfoods menu
Pasta With Pea Pesto
Lisa Hubbard
Everyone needs a change from tomato sauce sometimes. Jessica Seinfeld loves this pasta (with or without chicken) served cold as a summer lunch or warm for dinner all year round.Get the recipe for Pasta with Pea Pesto
Risotto With Spring Greens And Prosciutto
Lara Robby/Studio D
Risotto magnifies the flavor of whatever you put into it, so it really shows off the freshness of vegetables right out of the garden. Two things determine the success of this dish: First, whether your wrist is in shape for 20 to 25 minutes of constant stirring. And second, the quality of the rice.Get the recipe for Risotto with Spring Greens and Prosciutto
Herbed Farfalle And Steak Salad Recipe
Cristina Ferrare
This pasta salad with steak is award winning -- "I actually won first prize with this recipe in a celebrity chef contest," says Cristina Ferrare.Get the recipe for Herbed Farfalle and Steak SaladWatch Cristina make this recipe!
'You Won't Be Single For Long' Vodka Cream Pasta
Rachael Ray
Low-Fat Spaghetti Carbonara Pasta With Peas
Cristina Ferrare
If there's one thing Cristina Ferrare loves, it's peas. And with this recipe for spaghetti carbonara, she gets plenty. This creamy pasta dish has a wonderful balance of flavors, and thanks to the low-fat milk, you won't come away from the table feeling like you overdid it -- unless you want to.Get the recipe for Low-Fat Spaghetti Carbonara Pasta with Peas
Linguine With Walnut & Broccoli Rabe Pesto
Food & Wine/Quentin Bacon
Update the classic pesto pasta by using broccoli rabe instead of basil, adding a pleasing bitterness to the sauce, and in place of the traditional pesto noodle trenette, try easier-to-find linguine.Get the recipe for Linguine with Walnut & Broccoli Rabe PestoGet more updates on favorite recipes from Food & Wine's Reinventing the Classics
Buckwheat Soba Noodles With Sautéed Mushrooms, Shallots And Mint
Christopher Baker
A mushroom pasta dish is healthier and more flavorful with hearty Japanese soba noodles instead of regular semolina.Get the recipe for Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Sautéed Mushrooms, Shallots and MintGet more Asian-inspired twists on your favorite dinner recipes
Red Curry Peanut Noodles
Food & Wine/Kana Okada
This Chinese take-out staple gets an update by substituting pleasantly chewy whole wheat spaghetti for the usual egg noodles and adding a spicy kick of red curry paste to the peanut sauce.Get more updates on favorite recipes from Food & Wine's Reinventing the Classics
Pad Thai
Ann Stratton
This signature dish of Thailand just might seduce you and your family with its sweet, sour and salty flavors.Get the recipe for Pad Thai
Linguine With Tomatoes And Basil
Workman Publishing
Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook, first had this uncooked pasta sauce when they were guests in a beautiful home on Sardinia. Delicious and easy, the heat of the pasta warms and brings out the flavors of the sauce in a wonderfully subtle way. Get the recipe for Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
Pappardelle With Peas And Parmesan
Beatriz Da Costa
Gentle yet powerful, sophisticated yet earthy, rich yet not the least bit ostentatious. And one more thing: capable of leaving a woman satisfied beyond her wildest imaginings. If you're thinking George Clooney, think again. This is pappardelle with peas and Parmesan from Manhattan's Pó restaurant. "The sauce has a bright, straightforward flavor," says Pó chef John Baron. "It's a simple recipe that relies on the quality of its ingredients."Get the recipe for Pappardelle with Peas and Parmesan
Seafood Pesto Pasta
Hayley Harrison
Unhurried time together and a good seafood pesto pasta are among Lee Smith's ingredients for love.Get the recipe for Seafood Pesto Pasta
Bolognese Sauce
Tata Donne
This sauce takes a lot of time -- it should simmer for four to five hours -- but it does not require much skill or effort. Once the vegetables are chopped, all that's left to do is add ingredients and stir. This gives you plenty of time to shower, tidy up your house and do whatever else you need to do to prepare for your dinner guest.Get the recipe for Bolognese Sauce
Linguine With Garlic Chive And Rosemary Oil
Beatriz Da Costa
It's a visual extravaganza: a shapely mix of long-haired pasta and strips of sautéed herbs, inspired by a traditional Italian meal.Get the recipe for Linguine with Garlic Chive and Rosemary Oil
Grilled Sea Scallops With Saffron Spaghetti, Vegetables And Fresh Herbs
Antonis Achilleos
In this recipe, "you have your protein, your starch, Mediterranean flavor and a wonderful combination of fresh vegetables and herbs," says chef Nora Pouillon. "You can give it to your kids and they'll love it, because it has spaghetti in it. It's the kind of recipe you can serve every day or dress up for entertaining with a first course and dessert."Get the recipe for Grilled Sea Scallops with Saffron Spaghetti, Vegetables and Fresh Herbs
Orecchiette With Arugula And Walnut Pesto
Ditte Isager
Fresh vegetables and Arugula and Walnut Pesto add great flavor to this pasta dish.Get the recipe for Orecchiette with Arugula and Walnut PestoGet the recipe for Arugula and Walnut Pesto
Pesto Alla Genovese
Richard Gerhard Jung
What could be easier than tossing pasta with this tasty pesto? Presto, dinner's ready!Get the recipe for Pesto Alla Genovese
Linguine With Gifts From The Sea
Cristina Ferrare
This can be your go-to pasta dish when you need to make a quick meal or an elegant entrée for a dinner party. "I can't tell you how many times I've reached into my pantry to make this pasta," says Cristina Ferrare. "You would never believe the clams are from a can because they are minced, tender (not chewy) and seasoned to perfection with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley!"Get the recipe for Linguine with Gifts from the Sea
Zucchini And Tuna Pappardelle
Christopher Baker
Canned tuna doesn't have to mean sandwiches; instead, toss it with ribbons of zucchini, pappardelle and a lemony cream sauce.Get the recipe for Zucchini and Tuna PappardelleGet more deliciously inspired meals whipped up from pantry staples
Lemon-Infused Angel Hair Pasta
Cristina Ferrare
Love is in the air when this extra-special meal is on the table.<Get the recipe for Lemon-Infused Angel Hair Pasta
Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Caper Pesto Sauce
Con Poulos
Salt-packed capers make this whole wheat spaghetti dish a quick, flavorful weeknight staple.Get the recipe for Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Caper Pesto SauceThis recipe is made from ingredients featured in The Great Pantry Makeover
Bolognese à la Ferrare
Cristina Ferrare
Cristina Ferrare loves preparing a yummy meal for a good friend. With her long-time pal Henry Winkler cheering her on, Cristina prepares his all-time favorite pasta dish, Bolognese, using ground pork and ground chuck instead of pancetta.Get the recipe for Bolognese à la Ferrare
Raw Cherry Tomato, Arugula And Pecorino Linguine
Anna Williams
Nothing says warm weather like cherry tomatoes, arugula and Pecorino Romano cheese -- especially when they're in one bowl. Get the recipe for Raw Cherry Tomato, Arugula and Pecorino Linguine
Caesar Pasta With Baby Romaine And Parmesan
William Meppem
The Caesar salad originated in Mexico, and this pasta dish in Italy, but somehow the two cultures came up with the same ingenious discovery -- it's delicious!Get the recipe for Caesar Pasta with Baby Romaine and Parmesan
Asparagus And Pea Farrotto
Gentl & Hyers
Get your carbs the right way in this savory pasta dish.Get the recipe for Asparagus and Pea Farrotto
Spaghetti al Forno
Gentl & Hyers
Whole grain pasta adds a new level of health to a simple pasta dish.Get the recipe for Spaghetti al Forno
Mixed Grain Risotto With Squash, Tomatoes And Basil
Con Poulos
Think of mixed grain risotto as your culinary blank canvas, adaptable to any season; this summery version has ripe tomatoes, zucchini and basil. The grains deliver vitamins (E, thiamin, folate, B6) and minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium) all year round.Get the recipe for Mixed Grain Risotto with Squash, Tomatoes and BasilThis recipe is from The Real-Food Diet Mix-and-Match Meal Plan
Barramundi With Sweet Corn Risotto And Onion-Basil Salsa Recipe
Mikkel Vang
This seafood dish sings with the fresh flavors of summer.Get the recipe for Barramundi with Sweet Corn Risotto and Onion-Basil Salsa
Lemon Risotto With Garlic Crab
Shimmon & Tammar
How about a heaping serving of pasta for just 553 calories? Just try this delicious recipe!Get the recipe for Lemon Risotto with Garlic Crab

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