Plant-based pasta hits campuses, healthcare facilities

Photograph courtesy of Barilla

Plant-based foods are on the rise, with diners increasingly looking for new menu options. For non-commercial foodservice operators who are looking to keep pace with healthy trends and the dietary needs of a diverse population, this can present significant challenges.

In fact, 20% of college students follow some form of special diet, ranging from semi-vegetarian to vegan, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report. With pasta a core food item at colleges and universities and Gen Z college students embracing plant-based foods, a possible solution using plant-based pastas may have evolved.

However, plant-based pastas don’t always hold up great under the demands of a large cafeteria operation meant to serve thousands.

“Most of the [plant-based] pastas in the past have not always been great in terms of color, texture or flavor,” said Anthony Jung, executive chef of retail dining at UMass Amherst in Amherst, Mass. The issue becomes finding a pasta product that performs well and consistently enough that it can be used on the menu.

Recently, Jung tried out Barilla’s Legume Pasta line and was more than pleased with the results.

“I was really impressed by it,” Jung said.

Jung used the Chickpea Casarecce pasta to create a dish with summer peas, n’duja and pecorino cheese. He tried the dish out at a large university event where it was so well received that UMass plans on using the legume-based pasta to develop test items for the fall menu.

“This pasta held up really well,” Jung said, adding that the pasta’s texture and flavor exceeded expectations. “Gluten-free pastas do not always hold up well—they can become slimy or just not do well on a buffet line.”

Jung gave the pasta high marks for its durability and its ability to absorb flavor. He said with most pasta dishes, a stock is added to boost flavor and the ability of the pasta to absorb that flavor and maintain integrity is essential. However, these legume pastas offer a deliciously unique taste and al dente texture, along with the nutritional benefits of legumes, making them an easy addition to any menu.

Additionally, by serving plant-forward pastas, foodservice locations can appeal to health-conscious diners as well as those following specialized diets. Ed Glebus, executive chef for Bon Appetit at Illumina Health, says of Barilla’s Legume Pasta, "I like that it’s a one-ingredient product. It’s clean, it’s gluten-free, and vegan. People are looking for those options, especially here in California. We are plant-forward central! All of those attributes are a win for me at Illumina Health.” 

Barilla’s Legume Pasta can offer a big win for foodservice facilities, delivering on the diverse dietary needs of a university while also meeting taste, texture and flavor demands.

"Using the Barilla Legume pasta, I can do a main entree, and a vegan choice right alongside it that can sell just as well. It’s got great color, texture and flavor, and in a chef-driven, locally-driven and hand-crafted concept like ours, we have the ability to take that canvas and create some delicious and health-conscious items for our guests,” Glebus said.

The pastas provide a great source of plant-based protein and an excellent source of fiber, as well. The pasta line includes Red Lentil Rotini, Red Lentil Penne, Chickpea Rotini and Chickpea Casarecce, all of which are made with one simple ingredient – either red lentil flour or chickpea flour, are certified gluten-free and non-GMO project verified.

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This post is sponsored by Barilla

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