“A lot of consumers lump pasta in a category of white foods and refined grains that they think they shouldn’t be eating, but the reality is pasta is an enriched refined grain that doesn’t have solid fats, has no added sugar and is a great healthy base for a delicious Italian-Mediterranean style meal,” says Anna Rosales, director of nutrition, technical regulatory and science affairs at Barilla.
She explained at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago in mid-October that there are “countless studies” that show pasta, when cooked al dente, is a low glycemic index food, which means “in your body, it doesn’t break down super quickly. Some foods like sugar, for example, will give you this really quick, rapid rise in your blood sugar. But pasta gives you more of a sustained rise and a steady energy.”
The other common misperception Rosales says she often hears from consumers, which Barilla is trying to address, is that the sauces and way pasta is prepared is unhealthy. In response, Barilla created three healthy pasta builders: a pasta salad version, a hot option and a Latin flavor inspired one, Rosala said.
The mix and match guides provide thousands of fast meals all with 500 calories or less per serving, she said.
Two other common hurdles to pasta consumption is consumers’ fear they will over eat if they make an entire box of pasta, or a lack of time to boil water and cook the noodles.
“With portion-control being an issue, time management being an issue, we have been working on different innovations that can help with that, and one of our latest innovations is this: It is Ready Pasta,” Rosala said.
She explained: “It is pre-cooked or fully cooked pasta that is ready in 60 seconds. It is shelf stable and one of the coolest things about it is the clean label. It is just water, pasta, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. So, it is like nothing funky, nothing weird. Just like what you do at home if you were cooking pasta, but all you have to do is knead the bag, you vent it and tear it open, pop it in the microwave for 60 seconds and you have pasta.”
She added when combined with a bag of frozen vegetables or canned beans and sundried tomatoes, the Ready Pasta means consumers can have dinner on the table in five to 10 minutes instead of 30.
With endless recipe combinations and now a pre-cooked option, Rosala laughed consumers now have “a thousand plus ways … to eat your pasta, enjoy it, enjoy life and eat it like an Italian.”