I never thought I would see the day when these two words coexisted in peace: paleo, and pasta. Well, thanks to the efforts of some energetic folks in Bronxville, NY, they no longer have to contradict each other. Last week one of the owners of Paleo Pasta contacted me and asked for my initial thoughts on the product as well as if I would be interested in sampling it.
My knee jerk reaction was “Oh great, another imitation paleo product” Call me a Paleo purist, but I tend to enjoy foods closest to their natural, least processed states. Just give me the basics and I’m a happy camper. I don’t really care for paleo pancakes, paleo cookies, paleo bread, paleo___” Mentally, it seems products like these defeat the purpose of switching to the diet. That, and sometimes trying to imitate a non-paleo concoction with paleo ingredients just doesn’t work out, or is prohibitively expensive (seen how much almond flour, etc. costs these days?) The substitutions will likely yield something that perhaps is paleo approved, but might taste, feel, and look totally different than the food item it was meant to replace, which you are probably trying to imitate as closely as possible because you are craving and/or missing said product.
Like I said though, that is just my knee jerk reaction. I’ve been on the diet for so long that I have no problem turning down pasta, bread, donuts, cookies, or any other grain based dish. BUT, I do remember a time when I craved such things, and occasionally caved in. Had a convenient paleo alternative been available I most certainly would have eaten it instead. This is where the true beauty of “paleo imitation” foods shines through. There was a time when I ate pasta religiously. I’m a hardcore cyclist, and this stuff is like manna to us. Plus it’s easy to make and dirt cheap. Meat, a little veggie, and lots of CARBS, the stuff a cyclist runs off.
After I made the switch to Paleo and started burning fat more efficiently, I don’t think my body was really craving the carbs in pasta, but rather my mind was craving the comfort of pasta. I’m willing to bet ANYONE who came from a background like mine and is now Paleo experiences the same thing. And not just pasta, but since this post is about pasta and it is undoubtedly one of the most missed conventional foods out there, I’ll just keep shop talk to pasta.
For those that really, really miss pasta but want to stay Paleo, I can only provide high praise for Paleo Pasta. I cooked up a batch of the Spinach flavor and topped it with creamy mushroom/grass fed beef/spring veggie sauce and it was awesome. I tasted the pasta after straining it but before adding my sauce, and I kind of wished I hadn’t put that can of creamy mushroom in with the meat and veggies. The cooked pasta tasted great on its own. The mushroom sauce wasn’t bad, it just had stuff in it I could’ve done without (lots of sodium, and a little soybean oil) but it was a last minute borrowed item from a neighbor since I don’t normally stock any sort of sauce for which to garnish pasta with nor do I have the equipment to make sauces from scratch (I’m a Caveman, I put a high value on living simply).
My other knee jerk reaction came after looking at the nutrition label.
From a 56g serving, 30g is carbs. This seemed a little high to me. Granted, they are quality carbs, probably mostly from the arrowhead and pumpkin powders, but still, my initial reaction was this was a bit high. Let’s contrast it with normal pasta, from nutritiondata.com :
This is for a 128g serving. If I proportioned it to a 56g serving, guess how many carbs that comes to? 30.625g Basically the same as Paleo Pasta. How is that possible? Well, lets look at a few other important factors: fat and fiber. Paleo pasta has 9g of quality fat and a whopping 6g of dietary fiber. Regular pasta, 3g of boring fat and no fiber. Fat and fiber help cancel out the carbs, so Paleo Pasta still wins. Look at the glycemic load and inflammation factor on regular pasta too! I couldn’t find these values for Paleo Pasta, but I bet they are much more favorable!
Also look at the micronutrient profile. While regular pasta has more iron (which probably isn’t all absorbed due to anti-nutrients), Paleo pasta has more vitamin A and C and calcium. Probably wins out in all the other micronutrients not listed too.
Ok, numbers aside, here are some additional thoughts. Let’s keep in mind that carbs themselves are not the enemy, in fact, a healthy dose of carbs is beneficial, especially complex slower burning ones, which this product mostly has. I shoot for somewhere in the 100-200g/day, so 3 servings of pasta (which is about what I ate for dinner) would be most of my carb intake on an average day. As of late, I’ve been training pretty hard in preparation for a 24 hour race and have probably been burning right through my glycogen supplies. Some extra carbs wouldn’t hurt and in fact I can tell my body has been asking for them. If you are an athlete and are quite active, regular use of a product like this would help you meet your carb demands while staying paleo. If you aren’t an athlete, but just really miss pasta, I would say this is a good product to enjoy in moderation, maybe once a week. Or, more often, but with smaller portions. It is after all, more expensive than regular pasta ($7.50 a bag if you buy 6, compare to what, about $1.50 for regular pasta) so I would recommend stretching your dollar and satisfying your pasta craving by using more meat, sauce, and vegetables. Each bag has about 5 servings. This is probably enough for one meal for two adults and a small child. I tore through about three servings at my meal, but I usually skip lunch and eat a big dinner.
One last tip. The directions say to boil for 2 1/2-3 minutes. I did this and the noodles came out a bit soggy. Maybe try 1-2 minutes for a more al dente preparation. Here is a quick and dirty paleo recipe that I made up that you can try out with this pasta. I say dirty because the cream mushroom in a can wasn’t particularly paleo, but it sure was convenient!
Paleo Pasta with mushroom beef veggie sauce
1 bag Paleo Pasta (I used spinach flavor)
1 lb of ground beef (grass fed preferred, but not necessary if you are on a budget)
1 can of cream mushroom. alternatively, you can make your own. Blend some mushrooms with a little water, and maybe some heavy cream or butter
bag of frozen spring veggies (again, super convenient in a bag, and frozen veggies are actually a pretty healthy choice, but you can use fresh veggies like onion, bell pepper, carrots, squash, zuchinni, eggplant, and asparagus to name a few)
boil pasta 1-2 minutes in pot and strain
brown meat in skillet. add frozen veggies. add mushroom sauce.
serve pasta on plates with sauce on top. bon appetit!
serves 2-4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is.