New Favorite GF Pasta for this Italian Mama: Red Lentil Pasta

Hubby is a fan of most health food fads and I am the classic skeptic. I distinctly recall a conversation last year where he declared gluten is bad for us and we should all give it up. I rolled my eyes, cited my Italian heritage and expressed, “why live if you can’t eat pasta?” Right?! Pasta is one of life’s joys. I’m not the only with a one year-old pic with spaghetti on my head.

Fast forward several months, Miss E was diagnosed with celiac disease and my diagnosis followed. The irony of my words… a life without pasta? I think not.

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Enter the world of gluten-free pasta… In general, I recommend not eating it, if you do not need to be on a gluten-free diet. Why in the world would you substitute healthful, whole wheat pasta with practically nutrition-less corn or rice pasta? Check the ingredients of the “quinoa” pasta and you’ll find it’s still mainly rice pasta.

Unwilling to give up my favorite food, I had resigned myself to feeding my family corn pasta (the most al dente of the two), knowing that our diet is not exactly lacking in corn these days. But, recently, I stumbled upon a wonderful alternative, one I can actually feel good about feeding my family… Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Rotini! This is my latest favorite gluten-free find.

This wonderful box is more than I could have hoped for in pasta (g-free or not)… so much so that I would (and do) recommend it to gluten-eating friends. Ready for the ingredient list of one?…. organic red lentils. That’s it. Nutritious lentils and nothing else. Despite the abbreviated list of ingredients, this pasta actually tastes and “bites” like the real thing.

Nutrition…. I’m a nutritional novice, with a philosophy of a varied diet with lots of fruits and veggies and moderation with sweets. Celiac disease requires a bit more vigilance, so I ran it by a dietician friend. She pointed out that it has a lot of protein, so I will make it sans the gluten-free meatballs next time. Lentils also have the downside of not being a complete protein, which means they need to be combined with a carb for your body to get all of the amino-acids required. Fortunately, you do not have to combine them in the same meal, rice is a perfect combo carb for lentils, and I don’t know any celiacs short on rice in their diet. Problem solved.

The only downside I see to this product is price. At nearly $10 for a bit over 1 1/2 pounds of pasta (that was the Costco price, and it costs more elsewhere), Tolerant’s Red Lentil pasta is pricey… but I don’t care in the least! I have always paid a bit extra for whole wheat pasta, and that has gone way up for corn pasta. A premium over the price of gluten-free pastas is a small price to pay for a nutritious, g- (guilt and gluten) free pasta meal for my family.

For this particular meal, I actually threw together my own sauce in a pinch as Trader Joe’s did not have any gluten free sauce during my last shopping trip. I bought a few vine ripened tomatoes, sautéed onions and threw it all in my vitamix with some fresh basil. It didn’t have that slow cooked taste, but it was fresh and cross-contamination free. When I use a jarred gluten-free sauce, I often add carrots or a few random veggies to boost the nutrition. This is now my family’s go-to, hit-with-everyone, easy and nutritious dinner.

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