You might assume the healthiest boxed pastas on the grocery store shelves taste like cardboard. Or that the noodles will be so dense and chewy that they’ll ruin the texture of your grass-fed meat sauce.
You’d be right about what’s in some of those boxes of gluten-free fettucine and farfalle, but not all of them.
Here’s the thing: The evidence showing how bad refined carbs are for your health (think: obesity, heart disease, and inflammation) just keeps building up. So, more companies have rushed to innovate in the space, creating healthier pastas made from ingredients like whole and ancient grains and legumes.
That means healthier pasta options for all (even if your Italian grandmother would not totally approve).
To help you decide which boxes to throw in your basket, we taste-tested and evaluated the nutrition facts of many of the most popular healthy pasta brands. The healthiest pastas we ended up with are made of ingredients like organic quinoa, lentils or chickpeas, and are delicious enough to make you want a second bowl. Most (but not all) are gluten-free, and many are super high in protein.
One final note: If pasta is an occasional food for you, and you’d prefer to consciously enjoy homemade white-flour gnocchi at your fave bistro once a month, go for it! These healthy pasta brands are for those of you who are craving, say, penne with pesto every night and need a healthier way to make it happen.
10 Healthy Boxed Pastas
1. Felicia Organic Buckwheat Spaghetti
This gluten-free spaghetti is made with just one ingredient: 100% organic buckwheat flour. It’s the perfect choice for classic Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or spaghetti and clams. The brand makes many other versions with rice, corn and legumes, and is pretty easy to find.
$31.41 for a pack of six, astaduka.com
2. Tolerant Simply Legumes Organic Red Lentil Pasta
This pasta is called “Simply Legumes” because the only ingredient is red lentils (they also make versions with black beans, green lentils and chickpeas), so it comes with all of the health benefits of those beans. That means tons of protein (21g) and fiber (11g) per serving, and other essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin B6. It’s certified gluten-free and is delish to boot.
$28.99 for a pack of six, amazon.com
3. Ancient Harvest POW! Pasta
You probably know Ancient Harvest from its blue boxes of quinoa. Its POW! protein pastas pair the ancient grain with legumes, like lentils and chickpeas. Both are great for veggie pasta dishes since they provide 12+ grams of protein per serving, plus a significant amount of iron. The lentil noodles have a very mild flavor, so they can be thrown into any dish. All of these pastas are gluten-free and non-GMO, but they’re not organic.
$29 for Green Lentil Penne pack of six, amazon.com
4. Jovial Organic Whole Wheat Einkorn Pasta
Jovial also makes gluten-free pastas, but its rigatoni, penne and fusilli made with certified organic, whole grain Einkorn—an ancient form of wheat—are the most unique and delicious. While Einkorn does contain gluten, it has 30% more protein and 15% less starch than commercial wheat. It’s also a good source of antioxidants and minerals like zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron. Made into pasta, it provides bold, nutty flavor that will take any dish you’re making up a notch.
$3.19 for one pack of penne rigate, vitacost.com
5. Banza Chickpea Pasta
Banza’s the most visible, heavily marketed gluten-free pasta in the space, which means it’s often easier to find than others. Made with chickpeas and pea protein, it’s super high in protein and fiber and also provides iron and calcium. Its texture is nearly perfect, but it does taste more like garbanzos than pasta, so consider that flavor profile when choosing a sauce. Finally, it also contains xanthan gum, a natural thickening agent often used in gluten-free products for elasticity. It’s generally considered to be safe but has been found to potentially affect digestion. A few taste-testers (not everyone) on our team reported some digestive distress after eating Banza. That may be due to the xanthan gum or the simple fact that eating lots of beans just makes some people gassy.
$25 for a variety pack of six, amazon.com
6. Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine
If you’re seeking a high-protein pasta, look no further than Explore Cuisine’s edamame and mung bean fettuccine noodles. A two-ounce serving delivers an impressive 24 grams of protein, about the same amount you’d get from eating four (yes, four) eggs. For reference: the same serving size of a classic, white flour fettuccine provides only 7 grams of protein. The product’s high protein content can help you feel more full, so you only need one bowl of pasta to feel satisfied instead of three. Toss it with a vegan pesto and slow-roasted tomatoes or sautéed bok choy and sesame seeds. It all works!
$26.97 for a pack of six, amazon.com
7. Solely One Whole Organic Spaghetti Squash Pasta
Too lazy (or scared) to cut into a massive spaghetti squash at home? Enter Solely, the health- conscious company that makes its organic spaghetti squash pasta from solely one ingredient. Low in carbs, vegan, and gluten-free, Solely’s spaghetti squash pasta is a pantry staple that’s ready in minutes. All you have to do is add the dried squash strands to boiling water, cook for five minutes, then strain. Top your squash with a killer turkey bolognese for a cozy dinner that won’t leave you in a carb coma.
$7.99 per box, amazon.com
8. Al Dente Carba-Nada Egg Fettuccine
This egg-based fettuccine from Al Dente pasta is quick cooking, low in net carbs and packed with fiber and protein. In other words, it’s the perfect pick for anyone looking for a filling bowl of noodles that won’t bring on a blood sugar crash. Heads up: this pasta contains wheat, soy and eggs, so it’s not as allergen-friendly as others.
$23.99 for a pack of six, amazon.com
9. Sfoglini Organic Hemp Rigatoni
If you’re all about artisanal pastas, go for Sfoglini. The brand offers products like beet fusilli and porcini trumpets, all of which are made from organic grains that have been grown and milled in North America. We love that this rigatoni gets its nutty flavor from hemp flour. Sfoglini recommends tossing the thick pasta with shrimp, sweet corn and tomatoes for a hearty yet healthy meal.
$23.96 for a hemp pasta variety pack of 4, amazon.com
10. Cappello’s Almond Flour Spaghetti
In addition to frozen pizzas and cookie dough, Cappello’s does pasta—and it’s all grain-free. Made from almond flour, Cappello’s spaghetti is slightly higher in fat than its grain-based peers. The good news? The 7 grams of fat per serving come from nutrient-dense ingredients like eggs and nuts. Tapioca flour and xanthan gum also help hold the product together. Find this product in the freezer aisle for paleo-friendly pasta night.
$11 per box, cappellos.com
Easy Ways to Enjoy the Healthiest Boxed Pastas
OK, so you’ve got your healthy boxed pastas stocked in the pantry. Now, how to cook them? Try one of these nutritious pasta recipes.
Make homemade marinara sauce with your farmers’ market tomatoes.
Whip up some veggie-packed pesto.
Throw together a simple pasta salad.
(Top image: Shutterstock)