There’s been an explosion of bean and legume based pastas hitting the market, promising health benefits that traditional pastas don’t have and expanding options not only for the health conscious, but most importantly for people allergic or intolerant to gluten. Most of these pastas have fallen short for me in terms of taste and texture (for the record, I’m not gluten intolerant) so when Banza (www.eatbanza.com) arrived on the scene, I was intrigued.
Banza isn’t widely available where I live (I only found their penne at a local target last week) but they ran a clever April Fool’s Day campaign with a $4.01 discount so I took the plunge and ordered a six box pack of macaroni and cheese- regular price $22.50 ($3.75 per box) which is more expensive than mass market brands (think “blue box”) but is competitive with many organic and gluten free brands. Banza boasts that thanks to chickpeas, their pasta has twice the protein, four times the fiber and half the net carbs of regular pasta. And big shoutout for the fast shipping! I ordered on Easter Sunday evening and my box arrived on Tuesday-it was in an Amazon shipping box so I assume they ship through Amazon (there’s an Amazon warehouse about 35 miles form me).
I should be ashamed to admit that I’ve eaten hundreds of boxes of the classic “blue box” mac and cheese in my lifetime (but I’m not) and being the upstanding Registered Dietitian that I am, I should find a healthier alternative. Most-okay, all-have not matched up to that salty, creamy, neon orange goodness of my youth. So last night with great optimism, I dove in. Here are some of my initial observations: the dry pasta itself is darker than the standard elbow noodle used-it resembles whole wheat pasta-and it’s larger. Cooking time is 8-9 minutes and when cooked, the pasta definitely has more “tooth” to it-more classically “al dente” than the blue box version which gets very soft almost to the point of mushy.
Next, the all important powdered cheese. Banza calls theirs “buttery cheddar cheese”. Call me weird, but every time I make mac and cheese I dig my spoon in the packet and eat some of that neon orange powder. Banza’s version tastes a little saltier than I remember of the classic. Finished prep takes 1/4c milk and 2 Tbsp butter (classic mac and cheese takes 4 Tbsp butter!)
So….how does it taste???? Compared to the boxed mac and cheese we all know, this has a more subdued flavor that I really enjoyed. Surprisingly, the finished product did not taste as salty as I thought it would after tasting the cheese powder. The pasta held up nicely to cooking and holds the prepared cheese sauce well. The pasta also doesn’t have the weird consistency that plagues some other gluten free pastas. It reminds me a lot of whole wheat pasta which I happen to like. It is shockingly filling (thank you protein and fiber!). I struggled to finish my portion meanwhile I could finish an entire box of the classic mac and cheese in one sitting without thinking twice about it.
Overall, I enjoyed it and I’m glad that I have 5 more boxes in my pantry. That said, this is still a processed item that is higher in sodium and can be high in saturated fat if that is a nutrient of concern for you and so should be enjoyed occasionally. I’m definitely looking forward to trying more Banza products and using them in my classic pasta recipes.