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 pasta 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 a 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 synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene, 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 pasta 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 doesn’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!
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 avoiding 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 grain used to make it was 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 pasta 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?
By the way, this is my favorite marinara red sauce recipe to use with this wonderful soaked pasta!
Deborah Horvath Rowden
It took me two and half years. I was 199 lbs, bloated, migraines and just plain sick in body. I had developed sever candida as well. They wanted to remove my thyroid. (thank God I said no!) After exhausting but so worth it research I did myself, I went no sugar, no bread (of any kind) and no rice or potatoes. I discovered Nourishing Traditions (yay) I just ate wholesome, real food, including fermented foods. (which I grew up on, go figure!) I now weigh a healthy 149 pounds (size 10) I’m healthy and strong and my gut is doing great. I do eat good bread and grains now, in moderation, and have never felt better! I make my own sweet treats and basically just live like my grandparents did. Lard, butter, raw milk. I am fortunate enough to have friends that are also completely organic, non gmo farmers in all their farming practices. Woodland raised hogs, pastured beef, free roaming chickens and raw milk. (which I clabber often) Was it easy? Not at first because my body craved those horrible chemicals and foods (I use the term loosely) But once over the hump and feeling so much better was strong motivation. It does take determination and commitment but it’s so worth it too feel healthy and human again. The world being what it is, My hubby and I live 80/20 sometimes 70/30 on the eating real food scale. Baby steps. Don’t be intimidated by not being able to go 100% (once you’ve healed yourself)But always be wise and careful of your food choices. 🙂
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!
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?
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.
Thanks for the post on healthy and unhealthy pasta difference , it was helpful
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! =)
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,
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.
How long should someone go off of grains before returning to them? I already have hypothyroidism.
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.
Hi Sarah! Where did you get that being grain free, especially for women is problematic? I have vastly eliminated my bloating and 3 mo. pregnant belly by eliminating wheat even just 1 day, it goes down immensely. Are you referring to not getting enough carbs when you say it’s problematic if we don’t consume grains? What studies do you have to back up this up?
I still find that a grain is a grain (with the exception of white rice to feed the gut microbiome), and that our wheat here has been highly manipulated, is GMO and other chemicals added, etc. If it’s more carbs you’re looking for then I would suggest white potatoes or possibly white rice (if it’s not a problem) to feed the gut microbiome.
Additionally, I lived in Italy for 5.5 years and even back then, I was told by a friend that DeCecco pasta uses bronze dies and that this produces a better tasting pasta. Little did I know the why!
If you could give me a detailed explanation, I would appreciate it!
Wheat is not GMO .. this is a HUGE myth. Wheat is definitely hybridized, but that is completely different than genetically modified. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/hybrid-wheat-not-the-same-as-gm-wheat/
Also, women who go grain free for a long period of time (more than a few years) tend to develop thyroid issues. There is much written about this if you would like to google and do some reading on the subject.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?