At first glance this may seem like a trivial topic with an obvious answer.
In my vegan mind there is no reason why pasta should not be eaten by vegans. Nor do I see any reason why any animal ingredients should be added to pasta.
What is pasta, really? It is a preparation based on wheat semolina, in various shapes and sizes, that is usually cooked in boiling water.
Unfortunately, we know that not everything is as clear as water, and that there are many products that appear to be vegan because they are of plant origin, but in some situations they may not be, as is the case with sugar, for example. You can learn more about sugar in this article.
In reality the answer to the question of whether pasta is of vegetable or animal origin is simple.
Pasta is derived from a grain, so things only get messy when animal ingredients are added to the pasta. Since most of us buy our pasta in supermarkets, this is a very important question.
What is Pasta Made Of?
The main and sometimes only ingredient in the pre-packaged pasta we often purchase in supermarkets is wheat semolina.
Wheat semolina is the result of incomplete milling of the wheat grain, and therefore has a more granular and coarse texture than flour.
Most pre-packaged pasta is simple, as it contains one or two ingredients (wheat semolina or wheat semolina + water), and is vegan.
Some places offer a larger quantity of egg pasta but you can usually find eggless or vegan ones. It is necessary to pay a little more attention to make sure that egg isn’t among the ingredients.
Animal Ingredients You May Find In Pasta
There are several pasta brands that include one or more animal ingredients in some of their products. These ingredients can be:
This is the most frequently included animal ingredient in pasta. Especially in lasagna and nest egg pasta (those from De Cecco are a good example).
Fresh lasagna pasta always contains eggs.
- Vitamin D
It’s rate for vitamin D to be added to pasta, and It can be either be of animal or plant origin.
When of animal origin it is usually obtained from lanolin from sheep’s wool.
If the packaging does not have the vegan symbol, the only way to know if the pasta is free of animal ingredients is to contact the brand of that specific product.
In some places flours and pastas are often fortified with iron and folic acid. While I believe that most iron is not of animal origin, there is a possibility that it might be.
Again the best way to be sure is to contact the brand.
Cheese is usually present in pasta with pesto, but that’s usually clear from the get-go, and you probably won’t need to check the ingredients to be sure.
- Squid ink
If you see a dark-colored pasta, it’s a type of pasta that has been enhanced with a substance extracted from the ocean squid, hence why’s very dark in color.
However, most of the pasta you’ll find in the supermarket is typically only made of wheat.
Is Whole Pasta a Healthier Choice?
Whenever I hear or read papers by experts and nutritionists who are vegan, they usually advise eating whole grains instead of refined grains. The main reason seems to be related to their higher nutrient and fiber content.
This preference for whole grains seems to be a better option for the vegan diet as well as any other diet.
Most of the pasta in the supermarket is refined pasta, that is – during the processing of wheat, the bran and germ are removed, which consequently eliminates many of the nutrients. However, refined pasta is often enriched with B vitamins, iron, and folic acid.
The wheat in whole wheat pasta does not go through the same processing as that of refined pasta, so it keeps more of its natural nutrients.
Refined pasta contains more calories and less fiber, which can result in decreased satiety. Generally, whole grain pasta reduces appetite and increases satiety, more so than refined pasta. Whole grain pasta is naturally rich in fiber, manganese, selenium, copper, and phosphorus. These are, unfortunately, the name of the nutrients lost in the refining process of “common” pasta. The fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract and helps promote satiety.
There are other types of pasta, without wheat and gluten, that can also be a good option, such as rice pasta with spirulina, lentil pasta, and pea pasta. These are also suitable for vegans.
The pasta we typically buy in the supermarket (dry) in its simple form is vegan.
However, egg is sometimes added to pasta, so whenever you’re planning to buy a different pasta you should always check the label for animal ingredients.
Also, some pastas are fortified, particularly with iron and vitamin D3, so it’s best to contact the brand and check if the product is vegan or not. However, when added to food products, vitamin D3 is usually not vegan.
Pasta with choco ink is not vegan and pasta with pesto is generally not vegan either, as it contains cheese.
I hope I have cleared up some of your doubts 😉