How to Find the Best Healthy Pasta (not shaped in Teflon!)

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 42

healthy pasta at its best

Is the concept of healthy pasta an oxymoron for fans of traditional, nutrient dense diet? For the longest time, I thought so, but was happy to find out otherwise.

My change of heart occurred while attending one of two annual Jovial Foods Culinary Getaways in Tuscany. I was privileged to attend the excursion focusing on einkorn, the only completely unhybridized wheat left on the planet. I hope to attend the gluten free getaway sometime in the near future!

This trip was truly an unforgettable experience where I was able to fully relax and enjoy the amazing locale and also broaden my knowledge significantly about the history of a variety of traditional foods including that modern, sometimes addictive favorite – pasta.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve not been much of a pasta fan in the past. I never ordered it at restaurants and rarely made it at home. This is because the wheat and other grains used to make industrialized pasta are not properly prepared via sour leavening, soaking or sprouting.

Traditional preparation methods particularly for grain based dishes like pasta are important to render the nutrition bio-available, enhance digestibility, and prevent damage to the intestinal tract. Hence, the pastas available today in the supermarket should be viewed as highly processed foods best not eaten on a regular basis.

This view of pasta completely changed while in Tuscany. I had the rare opportunity to tour a small, family owned pasta factory in Lucca. It was here that I learned how healthy pasta is made (yes, it’s possible) that is (gasp) soaked before shaping among other exciting revelations.

Want to buy healthy pasta too and start eating it again without worry in your home? Here’s what you need to know.

Most Modern Pasta is Shaped in Teflon

The most shocking thing I learned touring the pasta factory in Lucca is that the convenient and profitable way to make pasta today is to mold the dough into various shapes using a teflon die (think meat grinder but for pasta dough) and then cut in accordance with the desired length.

Can you believe it? Most health conscious people long ago tossed their teflon bakeware and cookware, so to find out the pasta they buy is being shaped in this toxic material would no doubt be a startling disclosure.

Teflon is the DuPont brand trademark for a a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene, a member of the perfluorinated chemical “family”  of PFCs. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG):

PFCs have been found in nearly all Americans tested by federal public health officials. Chemicals from this family are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defense against disease (1).

While the greatest health risks from teflon come from exposure to the highly toxic fumes emitted during heating (ingesting particles that flake off scratched teflon isn’t toxic because the solid flakes are inert), most people would no doubt prefer not to support companies that use these types of toxic materials that are damaging to the environment.

Old Fashioned Bronze Dies Making a Comeback

The encouraging news is that forward-thinking pasta companies are choosing to use old fashioned bronze dies to shape pasta instead of teflon.

Jovial Foods is one of them and uses a bronze die for artisanal extrusion of every type of einkorn and gluten free pastas on offer.

How to know if the pasta you buy was made with teflon or bronze?

It’s quite simple actually. All you have to do is examine the pasta closely and note whether the surface of the pasta is rough or smooth and shiny. If it is smooth and shiny, a teflon die was used. If it is rough and textured, a bronze die was used. See the picture above as an example.

As a bonus, the rough texture of pasta made with a bronze die holds the pasta sauce better, making for a tastier dish. Industrialized pasta made in teflon-coated dies don’t “carry” the sauce very well because the smooth pasta actually repels the sauce.

It is important to be aware that there is a flipside. Pasta shaped in a bronze die absorbs more water when cooked and tends to overcook more easily than teflon drawn pasta. So, choosing to use artisanal pasta instead of industrialized brands will require that you watch the cooking pasta more carefully to ensure you don’t get a mushy mess.

Below is a picture of a bronze die which I snapped during my tour of the pasta factory. The pasta maker is holding the bronze die and the teflon die on the left side of the picture is a light grey color. This particular factory made pasta for several different companies some of which insisted on using cheap teflon dies. As a result, I was able to observe both industrialized and old fashioned pasta being made which was a rare opportunity indeed!

bronze die versus teflon

Why Would Pasta Companies Use Teflon Instead of Bronze?

If you are wondering why a pasta manufacturer would choose teflon instead of bronze in the first place for making its pasta, it’s not hard to figure out why.

Using teflon speeds up the pasta making process significantly. By some estimates, industrialized pasta can be made from start to finish in a half a day. In addition, a bronze die lasts for approximately 400 work hours with a maximum of 1500 hours before it needs to be replaced.  Teflon dies, on the other hand, are cheaper to make and last longer (2).

Hence the reason why teflon replaced bronze – to maximize profitability by speeding up the process and reducing costs.

The bottom line is avoid pasta that has a smooth sheen or lacks a rough surface. Pasta with this type of appearance screams, “I was made in teflon!”

Another trick is to examine the pasta in your hand. If it is brittle and lightweight, these are additional indications of poor quality.

Sturdy looking pasta with ridges or a rough surface is what you are looking for.

Healthy Pasta That is Traditionally Soaked

Another exciting revelation from my tour of the Lucca pasta factory is that pasta made from traditionally prepared grains is available today.

Remember I mentioned above that I have avoided pasta for nearly two decades because the grains used to make it were not digestible and if eaten frequently, had the potential to damage the intestinal tract in sensitive individuals.

I was overjoyed to learn, however, that Jovial Foods makes a very healthy brown rice pasta using a process that soaks the grains for 24 hours prior to cooking the grain and shaping the dough in a traditional bronze die! What’s more, both the einkorn and brown rice pastas are low temperature dried so the delicate proteins in the grain are not denatured or damaged in any way (this minimizes the chances of an allergic response). In comparison, industrialized pasta making focuses on speed with high heat drying the favored approach, another reason not to buy it!

Extending the pasta making process by a full 24 hours no doubt reduces profitability considerably, but Jovial Foods is all about doing the right thing, not the expedient thing.

Since I’ve returned from the culinary getaway, my family has been eating and greatly enjoying pasta again (Jovial Foods’ brand since I am sure of how it is made – call the manufacturer of the brands you use to double check their processing methods), once or twice a week instead of once a month (if that) in years past.

Are you excited to learn like I was that healthy pasta is not an oxymoron? Will you be eating more pasta in the future now that you know that some companies are reverting to the old pasta making ways and eschewing industrialized practices?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (42)

  • Vanessa Cassani

    Thank you for the informative article. I had no idea that pasta was shaped with Teflon. The way that food is produced now is so commercialized and far from homemade. I personally prefer veggie noodles made with a spiralizer. My favorite are zucchini noodles!

    April 3rd, 2016 3:50 am Reply
  • Heather B

    Just curious as to whether you still reccomend eating white rice over brown rice per your reccomendations in an earlier article you wrote on rice?

    March 23rd, 2016 10:45 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Someone asked that question already … yes I still eat basmati white rice and digest it much better than brown rice. That’s not to say I never eat brown rice. Just that I do better on white rice and prefer it. My favorite Jovial pasta is the egg pasta (using free range eggs and soaked brown rice). This pasta is sensational.

      March 24th, 2016 7:16 am Reply
  • Chris

    Thanks for the post on healthy and unhealthy pasta difference , it was helpful

    March 21st, 2016 4:58 am Reply
  • Jackie Arriola

    My family and I absolutely love Andean Dream’s gluten free Quinoa pasta. I confirmed with the company that they use bronze dies, instead of teflon. Their pasta has 6 grams of Protein per serving, which is about 2 ounces. Each box has a total of 24 grams of Protein and Arsenic free! The consistency, or texture, is unmatched. My kids LOVE it! Little do they know, it’s gluten-free, corn-free, allergen free, among many other benefits. I highly recommend it! =)

    March 18th, 2016 10:49 am Reply
  • Oana

    I don’t eat bread and pasta any longer and all the puffiness in my face and stomach is gone. It was organic and sprouted and I still had major reaction to them,

    March 17th, 2016 11:33 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      This will happen when the gut is imbalanced. Going off grains for awhile and rebuilding the gut lining with a healing protocol like the GAPS or SCD diets is very helpful … then in the future, grains can be reintroduced without problems. This is the best way to go, in my opinion, because going off grains forever is problematic for many people especially women. These problems (adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues) manifest after a few years of being totally grain free.

      March 18th, 2016 8:47 am Reply
      • Carolyn

        How long should someone go off of grains before returning to them? I already have hypothyroidism.

        March 26th, 2016 9:04 am Reply
        • Sarah

          Please research the GAPS or SCD diets. Generally, it takes 1.5 to 3 years for the average person to heal the gut sufficiently to tolerate grains again if that is the problem.

          March 27th, 2016 5:07 pm Reply
  • Karen

    thank you so much for this article! I’ve been buying Jovial GF pasta on and off. I am going to use it as my only pasta now. I like the texture. I’m wondering if I could tolerate the einkorn pasta if I have a severe intolerance to gluten per the ALCAT test insect it’s an accent grain untouched by man.

    March 17th, 2016 10:04 pm Reply
  • Danielle Egli

    How exciting!! I’ve been eating and serving Jovial pasta to my family for about a year! I liked that it tastes similar to the pasta we grew up in but it doesn’t have the gluten that leaves me feeling awful after I eat it. Thank you for sharing your findings!

    March 17th, 2016 9:51 pm Reply
  • Erin

    Would you recommend the whole wheat or traditional varieties of the jovial einkorn pasta too even though they have not been soaked? Are you sure that only the brown rice pasta is soaked? Are you concerned about arsenic in the brown rice variety?

    March 17th, 2016 9:34 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      I am not concerned about arsenic because Jovial Foods goes the extra mile to ensure that the farms they source the rice from are arsenic free. It has something to do with the way the rice fields are flooded to eliminate the risk of arsenic .. I will have to ask again about the specifics of this as I don’t recall it completely but it was explained during my tour. Also, the einkorn pasta is fine even though not soaked as long as you don’t eat it too frequently … we eat it occasionally in our home but do prefer the brown rice pasta.

      March 17th, 2016 10:18 pm Reply
  • Clayton

    The “healthy” pasta above has a rough outside but a smooth inside… if it’s as simple as bronze creating a rough surface hwy is the inside smooth?

    March 17th, 2016 8:09 pm Reply
  • kate

    Do you have any insight into quinoa pasta?

    March 17th, 2016 8:00 pm Reply
  • Marta

    How about angel hair or spaghetti style pasta? How can you tell the texture? They are all smooth I think.

    March 17th, 2016 3:53 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      The thinner pasta still has a detectable rough surface texture if it was shaped in a bronze die.

      March 17th, 2016 4:41 pm Reply
  • Jane Metzger

    I would like to make my own pasta. What would be the difference if I simply made a water base pasta with a little lemon juice and form it into a ball and put it in the fridge, rather than just letting it dry immediately?

    March 17th, 2016 10:52 am Reply
    • Sarah

      You will need to soak the grain prior to cooking it/making the dough or ferment the dough … dough does not ferment in the refrigerator. It must be done on the counter as beneficial microbes which perform this task are slowed down and don’t function effectively in cold temperatures. Here’s a post on making sourdough starter if that helps:

      March 17th, 2016 11:32 am Reply
      • Anita

        Thank you for the link to make your own sourdough starter…any recipes for making pasta? (I saw bread, no pasta or crackers). We appreciate YOU~!

        March 17th, 2016 3:30 pm Reply
        • Sarah

          I haven’t tackled pasta making yet, but stay tuned!

          March 17th, 2016 3:42 pm Reply
  • lesley from kent

    Very interesting article – when I did archaeology at Uni many [too many] years ago, einkorn wheat was mentioned, but also Emmer. Anybody know why Einkorn is mentioned here and not Emmer? Did one survive and carry on being cultivated while Emmer died out? If anyone could recommend a book on the subject – I’d be off to buy it asap! I think I will also take a punt on Jovial’s book too, and save up for a holiday there as well (“if you don’t have a dream … how you gonna have a dream come true!”) (lol)..

    March 17th, 2016 10:31 am Reply
    • Sarah

      About 2,000 years after einkorn wheat, emmer wheat was created by the hybridization of 2 wild grasses. Kamut and Durum wheat are both descendents of emmer.
      Spelt is the result of hybridization between cultivated emmer and another wild grass. Modern wheat is a descendent of spelt. Einkorn is the only completely unhybridized wheat on Earth.

      March 17th, 2016 10:42 am Reply
    • Kris Johnson

      The Jovial website tells about this history of Einkorn

      March 23rd, 2016 11:59 pm Reply
  • Bony

    Is it the same for Revioly, and spagetty ? On the picture of Jovial Ravioly on their website they look very Smoot.

    March 17th, 2016 8:19 am Reply
    • Sarah

      All the brown rice pasta types made by Jovial Foods are soaked for 24 hours before the pasta is cooked and the dough shaped.

      March 17th, 2016 9:19 am Reply
      • Terry Ryan

        Just to clarify – are you saying that Jovial is soaking the grains with a neutralizer?

        March 17th, 2016 2:37 pm Reply
        • Sarah

          The rice grains are soaked for 24 hours in pure mountain spring water.

          March 17th, 2016 3:41 pm Reply
          • Sara

            How is soaking for 24 hours without an acidic medium or the addition of water from previous soaks/ferments beneficial? Is the water warmed to enable to rice to sprout? 24 hours is not enough time to sprout rice at room temperature.

            March 20th, 2016 9:17 am
          • Sarah

            It’s not perfect but soaking in water alone (especially spring water with all the natural minerals) is hugely beneficial and improves digestibility considerably! I talk about this on my blog with regard to soaking oatmeal in plain water which is what generations past did .. it was even directed apparently on the box of Quaker oats. Also, the low temperature drying is very important compared with industrialized pasta which dries it at very high temperatures.

            March 20th, 2016 9:39 am
  • Annie

    Thanks for this great Info, which I did not know before.

    I Only buy Jovial Einkorn Pasta, and there Flour / wheat berries..
    They also have a great bread/flour recipe book.
    “Einkorn recipes for natures’s original wheat “, Carla Bartolucci.

    This is the only wheat that is Pristine, Unhybridized, and is Original 100’s of years old.

    I bought my book on Amazon..

    Thanks again.

    March 17th, 2016 5:45 am Reply
  • Colin

    Is this just an advert for J**ial pasta? What is THHE being paid for this? Shocking!

    March 17th, 2016 2:00 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Not being paid for this article! If I was being paid, I would have to disclose it per FCC guidelines. By the way, isn’t it possible I’m just trying to let people know that there is actually a pasta company with integrity out there? Sheesh.

      March 17th, 2016 9:21 am Reply
  • Flora

    I am confused. You say they only soak the one associated with the article, and say its the brown rice, but when i look at the article, I see a link to the Einkorn wheat pasta. ? So I would love some clarity on the health/benefits of the various different pastas that Jovial makes. They also make an egg pasta…
    Also, is their brown rice from a non-aresenic swamped source? Is it low arsenic?
    I am pregnant and make their brown rice pasta (somewhat reluctantly and infrequently as I can) for my GF child but I would love to get clarity on feeling better about use or even…eating some myself!
    Thank you so much!

    March 16th, 2016 11:42 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      I meant to link to the brown rice pasta .. I checked the link and that is where it goes.

      March 17th, 2016 9:23 am Reply
  • Sharon

    Do they soak the grains in all three different types of their pasta,(wholewheat, traditional, and brown rice)? I couldn’t find any info on their web site.

    March 16th, 2016 8:04 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Just the pasta linked to in the article .. the brown rice pastas.

      March 16th, 2016 9:05 pm Reply
      • Sarah R

        So they only soak the brown rice pasta?

        March 17th, 2016 1:03 am Reply
        • Sarah

          Yes … you know there seems to be some confusion on that point. I will make it more clear in the article!

          March 17th, 2016 9:22 am Reply
          • Pam

            Thank you for all of your informative articles! I’ve been a subscriber to The Healthy Home Economist for a long time and have been implementing different foods that you recommend. I will definitely be checking out my pasta now! Keep up the great work!

            March 17th, 2016 10:58 am
  • Jessica W.

    I’m curious, did they soak the grains before making the pasta dough or allow the dough to sit for 24 hours thus soaking the grains that way. I’ve been known to make homemade pasta and I would love to incorporate a grain soak into the process.

    March 16th, 2016 12:31 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Jovial soaks the grains before cooking it and then forming the pasta dough.

      March 16th, 2016 12:48 pm Reply

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