November 26, 2008

What is Quinoa Pasta?

Quinoa pasta is an entire family of pasta made from quinoa instead of the traditional ingredient of wheat. Quinoa pasta has seen a rise in popularity in the last few years, as people begin using it for health reasons, and as incidences of celiac disease become higher and more commonly diagnosed.

Quinoa is a plant with its origins in the Andes of South America. It is not a grass, and therefore not a true cereal in the way wheat or rice is. The seeds are collected and eaten like a grain, and it is probably most similar to amaranth, in terms of large-production food crops.

Quinoa has its origins as a cultivated crop in the Andes as far back as the 4th millennium BCE. The Incas referred to quinoa as the Mother of All Grains, and it played a pivotal role in the agricultural cycles of the Incas. When the Europeans conquered South America, they shunned quino as a food, disparaging it as Indian food, and its cultivation gradually decreased outside of rural indigenous communities.

Beginning in the 1970s, it began to see a resurgence, and with its introduction to the United States as a food staple sales and production began to increase. In the past decade quinoa has become a staple food, especially for many vegetarians and vegans, and a myriad of products have been made which rely on quinoa in the place of other grains.

Quinoa pasta offers a number of advantages over traditional pastapastapasta. For one thing, quinoa pasta has a very high amount of protein in it, at around 15% of its total volume. Quinoa pasta also has a robust amount of amino acids, and if one subscribes to the model of complete proteins, quinoa is one of the few grains which has a complete protein in and of itself. Quinoa pasta also has a great deal of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Additionally, quinoa pasta has no gluten in it, and so is a wonderful alternative for people who are gluten intolerant or have celiac. For many people, pasta is a cornerstone of their diet, and when they are diagnosed with celiac disease, or discover they can’t eat wheat for other reasons, it seems as though pasta will have to be eliminated entirely. Quinoa pasta offers an alternative to cutting pasta out, and as well as being suitable for celiac sufferers, it is healthier in many ways than traditional wheat pasta.

There are a number of different manufacturers of quinoa pasta, and it can be found in all sorts of different shapes. While the range of quinoa pasta shapes is still less than that of traditional pasta, it can be found in macaroni elbows, spaghetti, corkscrews, and other major shapes. Cooking quinoa pasta is slightly more precise than cooking traditional pasta, simply because the texture of quinoa pasta can go wrong if undercooked or overcooked more easily than white pasta. Many people compare quinoa pasta’s texture to that of whole wheat pasta, and the same cooking precision applies.


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