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There are few pleasures in life better than sitting back with a steaming bowl of carb-y, delicious pasta. Bowtie, linguine, penne, spaghetti, ziti, macaroni: all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way.
Is pasta vegan, or is this simple pleasure a thing of the past for us plant-based practitioners? Or can we still enjoy a big bowl of pasta whenever we need a pick-me-up?
To find out the answer to this question, we need to delve into all the details. Let’s get into it.
A (very) brief history of pasta
Pasta’s popularity began in the 13th century. While it was once only available to the elite class, this Italian speciality quickly became a favorite for those of all social levels.
How is pasta made?
This question must be answered in two parts since there are two distinct ways to make this delicious food staple.
There’s fresh pasta, which is often made and cooked in the same sitting. Or, there’s what’s called pasta secca, aka dried pasta. Dried pasta is usually boxed up for sale in grocery stores to be cooked at a later date.
These two types are very different in their production and in their vegan-ness, so let’s take a look at the details.
The typical ingredients for fresh pasta include flour, water, salt, and eggs. While some fresh pasta is made with oil instead of eggs, eggs are a very common ingredient in fresh pasta.
First, the flour and salt are mixed together in a mixing bowl. Next, a “well” is made in the middle of the flour. This is where the eggs come in: they’re cracked so they go right in the flour well.
The flour is slowly mixed into the eggs until a type of dough forms. Once the eggs and flour are fully mixed, the kneading can begin. The dough is then kneaded until you see no air bubbles upon cutting it.
Once that step is done, the dough should be rested before it’s be cut into the shape of choice: fettuccine, spaghetti, lasagna noodles, you name it. Then, it’s ready to throw into boiling water to cook.
You can dry pasta that you’ve made fresh, which means that certain dried pastas can contain egg.
However, most mass produced, boxed, dried pastas that you’ll find don’t contain any animal products. In fact, they usually only contain two ingredients: flour and semolina.
Commercial production of dried pasta is a long process. First, semolina, derived from a wheat product, is mixed with water. Machines will mix many tons of pasta dough each day (now that’s a lot a pasta!). After mixing, the dough is pressed through pasta molds to get the desired shape.
Once the dough is molded and cut, it’s sent off to a industrial dryer that dries the pasta with high temperatures. When the pasta is fully dried, it’s then packaged up in boxes and sent off to shops around the world.
If you want to see exactly how boxed pasta is commercially made, check out the video below:
You can also check out this video, which shows the difference between homemade fresh pasta and dried boxed pasta:
Is pasta vegan?
So now that we know how the two types of pasta are made, let’s get to the question at hand: is pasta vegan?
The answer? Yes…and no.
As you might have guessed after learning how the fresh stuff is made, many fresh pastas are not vegan. Egg is an extremely common ingredient in fresh pasta, and that obviously makes it off limits for us vegans.
However, many types of dried pasta are vegan. Egg isn’t commonly used to make commercially produced dried pasta. The pasta you find in boxes at the store is usually made with water, semolina, and wheat flour.
As with most things, your best bet is to always double check the ingredients. Even if it’s unusual, boxed pasta can still contain egg or other animal products just like fresh pasta can sometimes be made with oil instead of egg.
It can’t hurt to double check the packaging or ask the wait staff at a restaurant. It’s better to be thorough than to make assumptions only to find out something wasn’t vegan later.
Vegan pasta brands
Like I said earlier, most boxed pastas that you’ll encounter are vegan. However, I want to give you some specific vegan pasta options so you’ll know what to reach for the next time you go to the store or shop online.
One of the most popular pasta brands in the world is Barilla. Barilla dominates the pasta market: this brand makes up 30% of the pasta market in the US and 10% worldwide.
The non-vegan Barilla exceptions include their tortellini and their “Protein Plus” pasta, which has added eggs. All other dried Barilla pastas are vegan-friendly, though.
Besides Barilla, the popular pasta brands Ronzoni and Mueller’s also offer many vegan boxed pasta options.
But, as I said earlier, it can’t hurt to check the ingredients before you buy. While almost all of these boxed pastas will be vegan, there’s always the possibility they’re not. Checking the ingredients will save you from the vegan guilt (and the potential stomach ache) that occurs every time you accidentally eat something non-vegan.
Vegan pasta recipes
Having the actual pasta be vegan is one thing. It’s a whole different issue to have an entire pasta dish be vegan.
Many pasta recipes involve heavy cream, milk, other dairy products, cheese, meat, seafood, etc. You can have a beautiful vegan fettuccine, but that won’t mean anything if it’s topped with very non-vegan alfredo sauce.
The good news? There are hundreds of delicious vegan pasta recipes out there that emulate the comfort of the non-vegan recipes you might be used to. From creamy vegan alfredo to fresh marinara sauce, you won’t be deprived of delicious pasta options.
Check out 21 of my favorite vegan pasta recipes if you need somewhere to start!
Vegan pasta exists!
So, there you have it. Pasta is, sometimes, vegan!
Hopefully this post gave you some clarity on whether your favorite pasta is vegan or not. While you might not be able to enjoy many fresh pastas anymore, there are plenty of options and recipes out there for you; you don’t have to give up mac and cheese anytime soon (thank god).
Let me know if you try making any of the pasta recipes, or if you have suggestions of some I should try!