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Is pasta vegan or does dairy-free eating mean excluding Italy’s best export?

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Pasta is a go-to meal for busy households as well as anybody needing a cost-effective and easy filling meal, but is pasta vegan or are we overlooking a sly ingredient?

Not everybody loves pasta. It is a serious trigger for anybody with gluten intolerance and unless you’ve got a few good sauces in your cooking repertoire, it can be a bit bland. But on the whole, pasta is a firm mealtime favourite around the world. Fresh pasta isn’t always vegan-friendly, but why not? And are there any other types of pasta that we need to be wary of?

Grab a huge bowl because we are about to serve up everything you need to know about pasta and how you can keep it plant-based.

And the vegan winner is: packaged pasta

dried pasta veganLet’s start with some good news. Most packaged pasta is entirely suitable for vegans, including spaghetti and other everyday favourites like linguine, rigatoni, lasagne sheets and macaroni. This is because most boxed pasta or bagged styles are made from 100% durum wheat, though they will sometimes also have semolina or wheat flour added too. Dried varieties need no addition of animal products to maintain a long shelf life and, in addition to standard recipes, there have been enormous leaps forward in specialist varieties.

Is gluten-free pasta vegan?

Again, most packaged gluten-free pasta is indeed vegan. And what’s more, they are being crafted from increasingly surprising and delicious ingredients. With wheat firmly off the table, companies are looking to alternative staples to create spaghetti and shapes, with some of the most popular versions being made from mung beans, lentils, chickpeas and even sweet potatoes.

These developments highlight the importance of an inclusive approach to everyday food staples production. While being dairy-free is fairly simple, keeping pasta suitable for gluten-free eaters as well is a challenge, but one that needs to be met.

Which pasta styles aren’t vegan?

is fresh pasta veganThough most dry packaged pasta is vegan-friendly, you’ll always want to double-check the ingredients, for your own peace of mind. When it comes to buying fresh pasta, you’ll need to be extra vigilant as many brands use egg to keep the product pliable. Interestingly, this isn’t essential, as oil can replace eggs.

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Fresh pasta is displayed in fridges, often alongside fresh sauces, so you should be able to easily identify the styles that need to be very carefully examined. Let’s not forget that filled pasta can be unsuitable for vegan consumption too.

Stuffed varieties such as ravioli and cannelloni frequently have dairy-rich sauces and even meat fillings inside them. If you’re not looking to perfect your own pasta recipes and prefer to simply shop for ready-to-heat pasta dishes instead, you need to be ready to hunt out the Free From options. There are some amazing brands sold in mainstream supermarkets right now, offering fresh vegan ravioli, dairy-free sauces and plenty of other meal options too.

Is traditional pasta vegan?

It’s no secret that Italy is a country of foodies and that it has a serious amount of pride in its most recognisable exports, with pasta being chief amongst them. Is Italy a country for vegans? That depends on a lot of different factors, and many Italians navigate an animal-free lifestyle beautifully. But when it comes to pasta, the traditional method of making it is not vegan.

Composed of flour, eggs, water and salt, ‘proper’ pasta is made with strong arms and the vegan lifestyle not in mind. That’s why anyone following a plant-based diet tends to stick to packaged and dried varieties.

Read our assistant editor Olivia Rafferty’s experience of returning to Italy as a vegan.

Why do we love eating pasta so much?

can vegans eat pastaThe short answer to this question is that we have come to love pasta for it’s cost-effective, filling and versatile qualities. Easy to cook, simple to dress and with a style that’s suitable for most dietary needs, it is the everyman’s ultimate store cupboard essential. Perhaps that’s why the UK all but ran out of it during the first lockdown in 2019.

Homecooked, shopbought or made elsewhere: which is best?

Not everybody is an aspiring chef, so let’s not be elitist about our pasta consumption. As long as it aligns with our ethics and dietary preferences, we can afford to cut ourselves some slack. That being said, there are some brands, restaurants and delivery services that make mouthwatering carb-heavy meals easier than ever to source and enjoy.

Some of our favourite recommendations include:

For the home cook

Dried pastas are much of a muchness but some particularly good brands offer an excellent range of different shapes and styles.

Try the below with our vegan bolognese sauce recipe.

Our personal kitchen cupboards often include:

Barilla

 

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All enthusiastic home chefs will recognise Barilla pasta. Sold in cardboard boxes, it feels upmarket, offers a style of pasta for every application and won’t break the bank either. The pasta itself is widely regarded as the best option for better-than-supermarket own brands, but not as expensive as the super-luxe options. It’s not shy about posting some great recipe inspiration either.

Rummo

Sold in paper bags, there is a real grocery store feel to this pasta and it feels authentically Italian somehow. Easy to source and not too pricey, it is a nice upgrade from supermarket own brands. The new wholemeal range adds an extra heart-healthy element too.

Ready-to-cook shopbought varieties

After a long day, sometimes you just want to heat and eat. It’s a shame that on these days some plain pasta with a glug of olive oil and a twist of fresh pepper feels like too much effort. But then again, it offers you the chance to sample some of the fresh vegan pasta alternatives that are available.

Some of our favourites include:

Tesco Wicked Kitchen

The Rockin Ravioli is a revelation. Vegan, gluten-free and full of flavour, you simply need to heat through for a few minutes and serve. Spinach, dairy-free cheese alternative and garlic come together in little parcels to trick your taste buds into thinking you are in Italy.

Dell’Ugo

Offering a number of fresh plain pasta shapes as well as filled ravioli parcels, everything plant-based created by Dell’Ugo promises all the taste of Italian comfort food with none of the compromises that arise from a vegan diet. It also caters for the gluten-free pasta-loving crowd. 

Provided by professionals

The joy of eating out might be a slightly cruel memory right now, thanks to another national lockdown, but that doesn’t mean that we have to forget about the restaurants and delivery services that can still dish up our perfect vegan pasta treats.

Vegan-friendly pasta providers that we love include:

Pastan

An artisan vegan pasta company built on core principles of delivering indulgent taste without animal products, Pastan is a new kid on the block but one that should be in the phonebook of every carb-loving vegan in London right now. From charcoal pasta to gnocchi and even ice cream, everything is vegan and can be ordered for delivery through Deliveroo and Slerp.

Zizzi

It might be a UK-wide chain but Zizzi makes tasty and vegan-friendly pasta dishes that make for easy and satisfying family dinners when nobody has the energy to cook. A quick look on the website using ‘vegan’ as the search term brings up plenty of clearly labelled menu items that can either be collected or delivered straight to your door.

Conducive to creative cooking, easy to eat and budget-friendly, thank goodness most pasta is vegan, or what would we all fill our kitchen cupboards with?

Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.