I recently got a text from a client that read: “when are you going to review a low carb pasta?”
And to that he jokingly added: “I feel it’s your duty to your clients to make sure these products live up to their advertising so we can splurge on pasta without destroying a week or two of hard work and discipline.”
Of course, I’m pretty sure I told him to just have the (regular) pasta, follow the serving size on the box, and be done with the craving, but he was pretty adamant. Despite the fact the majority of “low-carb” or gluten-free products have the same calories (or more) per serving size, many dieters want to stay Paleo, or gluten-free, or in a ketogenic state.
Enter the new low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free pasta made by Quest Nutrition (formerly called “Pastabilities”). I’ve sampled other products by Quest before, like the Quest Bars and really did like them (as I wrote here!). Not many ingredients, tasted great, excellent nutritional profile, convenient, etc., so I felt confident that the Pastabilities product wouldn’t be too bad.
As it turns out, that was just the case.
Like the Quest bar, the ingredient list for the Quest pasta is pretty simple: water, glucommanan (whose virtues we cover here and here), and Calcium Hydroxide as a preservative. Frankly, I’m pretty surprised that I haven’t seen glucommanan more often in diet products, but then again, maybe it’s just a matter of time.
So, let’s start off with a couple of disclaimers:
1. Any health food product this low in calories (10 calories a serving!) isn’t going to taste like the real thing (2 oz of dry pasta cooked is 120 calories). You have to accept that it’s NOT going to taste like the real thing, so go in with an open mind. Since I’m now fairly accustomed to sampling products like these, I know what to expect.
2. If you’re some sort of “foodie” or Italian food connoisseur and would consider anything other than “real” pasta heretic, this isn’t for you. To that I will add, if Italian pasta is what you REALLY want, just eat it, rather than eat a pasta substitute AND the real pasta.
Back to the Quest Pasta.
Price: A package of the product sells online for $3.39. If you compare that to a grocery store box of pasta, you’ll find that it’s considerably more. In addition, each package only contains 2 servings. The product is expensive, and certainly not the best choice for college students surviving on ramen noodles, or anyone on a real tight budget. Quest pasta is available online, from the Quest Nutrition web site.
Smell: I know this is a humorous subheading, BUT, when you open up the bag (Pastabilities is precooked and sealed in a plastic bag preserved in a watery base) you get a distinct whiff of raw fish. Now, Quest uses the euphemism of “Ocean scent” which is true, it’s definitely ocean-like….
Nevertheless, true to the word, and as the company recommends, IF you drain and wash the product thoroughly, the fishy smell does disappear. For real. You might not believe me when you first open the bag, but after the two washing and drainings, I’m no longer smelling the, umm, ocean.
Taste: All in all, not bad. Mind you, I’m not a big pasta eater. Pasta is never something I crave, so to me, Pastabilities is not particular exciting nor insulting. But, it’s not like I live under a rock. I do know what actual pasta (spaghetti and fettuccini) tastes like and this isn’t what I remember. Even with marinara sauce it’s still not the real deal, BUT you do get the many benefits of marinara sauce with very few added calories.
Having said all that, I do think the product does fairly well in the taste department, but not particularly well for its intended use (Italian food). In fact, I think Pastabilities would actually be a VERY suitable choice in things like Japanese food (soba noodle substitute), Chinese food (in place of ramen noodles in a stir fry), Filipino food (in place of rice noodles in Pancit; see recipe below), Thai food (for Pad Thai), Vietnamese Pho, and other Asian cuisines.
In these cases, the Quest Pasta spaghetti noodles would be a very good choice.
When I paired the spaghetti and fettuccini noodles with plain marinara sauce, it was edible but not particularly exciting. The noodles are bland, and lack the same mouth feel as pasta, so like I mention above, you really need to be creative to enjoy the product. I suppose a meat or cream-based sauce would be better, but that would presumably beat the point if you were trying to reduce calories.
As another suggestion, if you’re the kind of person who can’t live without pasta in your weekly menu, you might want to try a 50/50 split with the Pastabilities product and your usual pasta. That would trim the calorie content of your meal, or be creative with your cooking (like I suggest in the recipe below, provided by my mom who spent over 30 years in the Philippines. Thanks Mom!).
See you in the kitchen.
Filipino Pancit Noodle Recipe (Stir Fried Noodles), Serves 2
1 package of Pastabilities spaghetti noodles
3/4 cup chicken breast, cut into strips or cubes
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup thinly cut strips of carrots
1/2 cup French green beans cut (slanted)
1/2 cup snow peas
2 TBSP chopped garlic
1 onion cut into thick slices
1 boiled hard boiled egg cut into slices
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
Chopped spring onions for garnish
Add oil to a nonstick pan, heat on medium flame, add garlic and onions, and brown lightly. Add thinly cut chicken breast and cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Add chopped carrots, green beans, and cabbage and cook until vegetables have softened.
Add black pepper and soy sauce, cover and cook for 2 minutes, and then add snow peas. Add Pastabilities noodles, and additional pepper and soy sauce, if needed. Mix well. Sprinkle lemon juice on top and garnish with egg and spring onion.
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