By Cathryn Woodruff, Banza Pasta
Pasta has a problem, there’s a big, fat stigma attached to it. Some words that come to mind when I think about a warm, delicious bowl of mac and cheese: guilt, bloat, and empty-carbs. And the image I see? Me lying on the couch... and I’m not moving anywhere.
Classic noodles land high on the FDA/USDA’s list of greatest overeating offenders — right next to chocolate chip cookies — so it’s not surprising that pasta sales are declining. Consumers still love the carb-filled comfort food, but they are eating less of it.
So what if we eliminated the “guilty” from “guilty pleasure,” and pasta actually became a nutrition powerhouse?
In order to bust the myth that pasta is always bad, first we must define “pasta.” It turns out the word itself is fairly innocent. It’s just a name for the preparation of a foundation.
The real menace is the underlying ingredient... and that’s wheat. There’s definite value in wheat for marathon-running carb loaders, but for most of us, it’s a treat. The same is true for the common gluten-free pasta alternatives, like corn and brown rice — tons of carbs, limited protein, and that over-full feeling. Other than losing the gluten, you’re not accomplishing a ton nutritionally.
At Banza, we set out to reinvent the experience of eating pasta using what we think are absolute power foods — legumes! Brian Rudolph, my friend and Banza’s inventor, was a pasta addict. But as a nutrition nerd and an avid gym-goer with a gluten intolerance, he began experimenting in his kitchen making pasta with a few pounds of chickpeas and a hand-crank. Not crazy about the gluten-free pastas on the market, he wanted to replicate the pasta experience he craved, while using simpler and better ingredients that he could buy at his local grocery store. Eventually it dawned on him that if he was craving a healthier pasta, other people probably were too. So from his own kitchen, Banza was born.
Because Banza is made from chickpeas in place of wheat, it’s got all kinds of advantages on regular pasta. So how does the chickpea throw such a nutritional punch?
- Exceptional plant-based protein. An entree serving of Banza chickpea pasta has 25g of protein. Fun fact: beans are the most environmentally efficient source of protein!
- Four times the fiber of wheat. Fiber helps keep your digestive system working – and is a big reason why Banza may satiate you sooner and for longer. Most people only eat about 15 grams of fiber a day. The American Dietetic Association recommends eating 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
- 40% fewer net carbs than wheat pasta. The great thing about all that fiber in legumes like chickpeas is that while it’s technically a carbohydrate on a nutrition label, it’s subtracted from the carb count when tabulating “net carbs.” This is because unlike simple starches that turn into fat, fiber moves slowly through the digestive system, and contributes to making chickpeas a low-glycemic product.
- Sneaky healthy. The best part about chickpeas is that they’re healthy, but they don’t have to taste that way. Banza looks, cooks, and tastes like regular pasta. The chickpea has a very mild, umami flavor when cooked, and so your bean-based products are pleasing and slightly savory. Plus, Banza can take on the flavor of any sauce you pair it with.
Nutrition can often really expensive or complicated, if you are starting out — fresh veggies or proteins with a short shelf life, long cook times, and whole-paycheck prices. But healthy can be quick, affordable, and delicious, too.
So healthy pasta does exist. You truly can enjoy your big bowl of Banza penne a la pesto. And let’s do the word “pasta” a favor and remember that it’s not all bad. Although it may come shaped like the others in its aisle, and taste like them too, Banza will treat your mind and body like pasta has never treated you before.
Spring Pea Pesto
Serves 4-5 ~ Vegetarian ~ Gluten-Free
· 1 box Banza Penne
· 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 3 bunches of Basil leaves (about 6 cups loosely packed), washed and pat dry
· 1/2 cup cooked Peas, fresh or frozen (then thawed)
· 1/2 cup Pine Nuts
· 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
· 2 Garlic Cloves, minced or crushed
· 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1. As per pasta packaging instructions, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add Banza penne in and reduce heat a bit until it reaches a low boil. Cook for 4-6 minutes, then drain and rinse shells immediately with lukewarm water. Drain completely and pour pasta back into large pot.
2. Meanwhile, place the pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and salt in the food processor and gently pulse a few times. Add in half the basil leaves, and blend until combined.
3. Add in the remaining half of the basil leaves then the peas, and blend continuously, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Keep blending until well-combined.
4. With the processor running, gently pour in EVOO through the hole in the bowl’s cover (if your processor doesn’t have one, just open and pour in EVOO in small parts, blend, and repeat). Keep blending until pesto is uniform.
5. Pour pea pesto sauce over the pasta in the pot, and stir to thoroughly coat penne. Plate, and serve!
*Tip: You can easily complete the pesto steps while the pasta is cooking, to shorten overall cooking time.
Recipe by: Minna Lee. Her blog: Living Minnaly.
Avocado Cream with Herbs
Serves 2 ~ Vegan ~ Gluten Free
· 1 8 oz. box Banza Penne
· 2 ripe avocados, pitted
· 1 cup fresh basil, stems removed
· 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice
· 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
· 3 garlic cloves, minced
· 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
· 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
· 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
· 1 cup cherry tomato halves
1. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Transfer pasta back into pot and set aside. Do not rinse.
2. In a food processor, add avocados, basil, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, almond milk, sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Process until smooth and creamy.
3. Add the avocado sauce to the pasta and stir to blend well. The hot pasta will warm the sauce, or you can heat over low heat on the stove until desired temperature.
*Since this sauce uses avocados and they brown after a few hours, it’s best to serve this dish immediately. Top with cherry tomatoes. 2-3 servings.
Recipe by Christin Russman-McKamey. Her blog: Veggie Chick.
Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Rotini
Serves 3-4 ~ Vegetarian ~ Gluten-Free
· 1 box Banza Rotini
· 2 egg yolks + 4 whole eggs
· 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
· 2 tablespoons milk
· 3/4 cup chopped prosciutto
· 2 cups roughly chopped kale
· 2 garlic cloves, minced
· 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk egg yolks, parmesan, salt, pepper and milk together.
2. Cook pasta according directions in salted, boiling water. Drain and reserve starchy cooking liquid.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat one teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto, cook until crispy, about 5-6 minutes. Add kale and garlic, cook another 2-3 minutes until kale is wilted and garlic is soft.
4. Add cooked pasta to the prosciutto and kale. Toss until combined and pasta is hot.
5. Take the skillet off the heat and while tossing the hot pasta, add egg yolk and cheese mixture. The hot pasta, kale and prosciutto will cook the egg yolks.
6. Add some of the starchy cooking liquid to loosen the sauce up.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
8. Fry eggs in large non-stick skillet with remaining olive oil.
Recipe by Nicole Leggio. Her blog: Cooking for Keeps.
Roasted Beet Pesto
Serves 3-4 ~ Vegan ~ Gluten-Free
- 1 box Banza Penne
- 4 red beets, trimmed and cut into 1 and 1/2 inch chunks (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook 8 ounces of pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Wash and scrub beets and trim stems. On a large baking sheet, add a layer of aluminum foil. Place the beets on a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat the beets with the oil. Place another layer of foil over the beets and tightly wrap the beets with foil. Roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender (check after 1 hour). Remove from oven.
- When beets have cooled, remove the skin using your hands. Be careful as beets will stain your hands red. After beets are peeled, cut into thirds and place the beets in a food processor.
- Next add the olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, water, basil, tarragon, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth. Add to pasta and stir to combine. Serve.
Recipe by Christin Russman-McKamey. Her blog: Veggie Chick.
Cathryn Woodruff is on the founding team at Banza, working primarily in the Marketing and Communications department. After graduating from Boston College with a degree in English and Hispanic Studies, she moved to Detroit and joined Venture for America – an organization with the goal to bring young entrepreneurs to cities to drive innovation and job growth.
Prior to Banza, Cathryn worked on the Healthy Living team at the Huffington Post, seeding her dedication to healthy eating, fitness and nutrition. Cathryn enjoys the fast pace of working at a startup and learning how to grow a business from the ground up. Currently, she’s a contributor to Elite Daily, where she writes about her experiences at Banza. She finds her Zen through practicing yoga, reading poetry, and experimenting with fun, healthy recipes.