KANSAS CITY — Traditional dry pasta is typically made from unleavened dough consisting of ground durum wheat and water or eggs, which is then formed into sheets or various shapes.
And while grocery shelves continue to be filled with traditional pasta products, pasta manufacturers recently have ramped up innovation that is utilizing alternative ingredients and applications to meet changing consumer eating behaviors.
One such application comes from researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who last week unveiled a technique for manufacturing pasta that can be “pre-programmed” for specific shape shifting upon boiling. As part of the technique, researchers said the pasta starts as flat sheets and may be packaged in small-volume boxes. Upon boiling, the product takes the form of bulkier pasta shapes, such as elbow and bowtie. The flat-pack pasta allows manufacturers to more efficiently package while minimizing empty space, the researchers said.
“Our shape-shifting pasta technology has the potential to transform the manufacturing, transportation and storage process,” said Professor Eran Sharon of the Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science.
Leaning on lentils
Also last week, Global Food and Ingredients Inc., a Canadian owned and operated plant-based food and ingredients company, announced it has acquired Bentilia, a lentil-based pasta brand offering a full lineup of gluten-free products.
Founded in 2014 by Alnoor Sheriff, Bentilia’s products are all sourced from lentil flour. Bentilia also offers a “Zimmunity” line of pasta products that includes proprietary, nutrient-rich ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms, kale, broccoli and spinach. Bentilia is sold through several health and wellness specialty channels in both Canada and the United States, as well as through its direct-to-consumer website online.
“We believe that our acquisition of the Bentilia brand will position us extremely well to capture significant market share in what is a high-growth category for retailers in the US and Canadian markets,” said David Hanna, chief executive officer of GFI. “The Bentilia lineup of products not only has well-established health and wellness credentials in this space, but we also believe it will be able to deliver on elevated taste expectations as well.”
Following the acquisition, GFI said it will focus on building Bentilia’s distribution platform by expanding into additional health and wellness-oriented brick-and-mortar retailers, particularly in the United States.
GFI said it will source and process red lentil flour — the key ingredient in the Bentilia product portfolio — at one of its four processing plants in western Canada. The flour will be milled further through GFI’s pea splitting and flour mill capabilities, the company said.
Crazy about Kernza
Patagonia Provisions, the food brand under Patagonia, Inc., in February said it is adding an organic fusilli pasta made with Kernza, a perennial grain that comes from intermediate wheatgrass. The fusilli pasta is made with a combination of semolina and Kernza flours.
Sausalito, Calif.-based Patagonia Provisions chose to use Kernza for its climate-friendly properties, according to the company. Since Kernza is a perennial grain, its roots stay alive in one place throughout the year, and it doesn’t need to be planted annually. The grain also uses less water than wheat and requires no tilling.
“We are excited to continue to find delicious innovative ways to help scale Kernza,” said Birgit Cameron, co-founder and head of Patagonia Provisions. “Full of warm, nutty flavor and a pleasing springy texture, our new pasta works well in just about every plant- or meat-based recipe, including comforting pasta bakes and pasta salads.”
Getting into shape
Also in February, Banza, a maker of chickpea-based comfort foods, launched Banza Cascatelli by Sporkful, a better-for-you and gluten-free version of the new cascatelli pasta shape.
The company partnered with Dan Pashman, creator and host of The Sporkful podcast, who spent several years researching and designing the novel pasta shape. Cascatelli features sauce-holding crevices and a slightly rough texture. Drawing inspiration from existing pastas bucatini and mafaldine, it has a half-tube shape with ruffled edges.
The new cascatelli product offers the same nutritional benefits as Banza’s other pasta shapes, with 20 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving.
“It was amazing to see the excitement around cascatelli when it launched last year, and it made us eager to create a version made from ingredients that all pasta lovers could enjoy, regardless of dietary restrictions,” Mr. Pashman said.