The gluten-free movement has become a way of life. Whether consumers have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or are trying to improve their health, 10% of the population avoids gluten. According to one of Datassential’s senior analysts, “Out of the thousands of different trends Datassential tracks, gluten-free is among the fastest-growing we’ve ever seen.”
Pasta is a leading segment in the gluten-free category, and with several alternative products available, it’s now easy to execute gluten-free pasta offerings that will appeal to any customer – not just those who follow a gluten-free diet. To counter their “deprived of” perception, gluten-free pasta dishes must incorporate complex flavors, creativity, and authenticity. Utilize gluten-free pasta as a carrier for high-value ingredients and next-level flavor combinations to make customers feel like they’re indulging in dishes that don’t sacrifice quality, flavor, or innovation.
A large number of consumers follow gluten-free diets as a result of celiac disease; however, most diners avoid gluten simply because it benefits their overall health, increases energy levels, and aligns with a clean-eating mentality. With numerous gluten-free products available, chefs can experiment with different brands to find the varieties that work best for signature pasta dishes such as penne alla vodka, spaghetti carbonara, ziti, and cacio e pepe. Chefs can also experiment with products that go beyond flour-free varieties. Alternatives made from chickpeas, quinoa, rice, or lentils replace wheat flour with familiar ingredients, intriguing flavor, and functionality that customers are seeking. Maines offers gluten-free pasta varieties from top brands – dry pasta from Barilla® and fresh pasta from Lilly’s. Along with a full line of standard gluten-free pasta options, Barilla® is now offering legume pastas, which are plant-based, naturally gluten-free options made from chickpeas or red lentils. Add heartiness to these dishes with braised beef, pork belly, or free-range chicken – all meats eaten in the ketogenic diet, a common eating style for gluten-free consumers. You can also elevate the veg-centricity of these products by menuing them with seasonal vegetable purées, charred or roasted produce, protein-rich nuts and seeds, or trendy enhancements like chile oil, microgreens, or gluten-free breadcrumbs. To serve an option that’s both gluten-free and plant-forward, experiment with veggie noodles (zucchini ribbons and spiralized butternut squash and beets are excellent choices), Lilly’s Fresh Pasta Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi (#046296), or house-made gnocchi made from beets, sweet potatoes, or cauliflower.
Authenticity is #1
What continues to drive the popularity of pasta dishes is the authenticity factor. An item marked with a gluten-free label doesn’t need to sacrifice the qualities that make pasta so enticing. Chefs can preserve the traditional qualities of a comforting pasta dish and enhance the experience with thoughtful pairings of pasta shapes and sauces. Delicate long noodles pair best with light sauces that evenly coat the strands while a variety like Lilly’s Fresh Pasta Gluten-Free Rigatoni (#024717) is an ideal platform for sauces with bits of meat or vegetables since it absorbs flavors and holds sauces so well. Impart appealing, all-natural, unprocessed qualities into your pasta plates with components like house-made bone marrow-tomato sauce or Trapanese (Sicilian-inspired pesto made with roasted tomatoes, almonds, pecorino, basil, and olive oil) that will enhance the from-scratch flavor and keep gluten-free and non-gluten-free customers satisfied with layers of flavor and ingenuity.
In today’s health-centered landscape, gluten-free alternatives are in high demand and call for higher price points. To maximize profits on your gluten-free items, incorporate clean, high-value ingredients such as organic sauces, all-natural cheeses, seasonal produce, grass-fed beef, and sustainable seafood. Items that capitalize on multiple top trends, such as gluten-free, sustainability, and clean ingredients, are sure to capture customer interest. For example, Maines JIT Fresh Swordfish Cubes (#030695) can elevate gluten-free pasta offerings while delivering a wow factor when customers realize it’s also gluten-free. Customers are willing to pay more for ingredients they see value in, and serving entrées with gluten-free pasta and highly prized seafood will surely turn heads in the dining room. Menu our Seared Swordfish Rotini recipe for an eye-catching gluten-free pasta that carries as much appeal and innovation as its gluten-containing counterparts while demanding a higher price point, making the pasta category even more profitable.
Calling out gluten-free items on your menu can help your operation support transparency and make the gluten-free community feel welcomed. Innovative, thoughtfully crafted gluten-free pasta dishes are sure to become loyal favorites for those with celiac disease, as well as for those looking for healthy, flavor-packed pasta options. With a plethora of substitutes available, gluten-free pasta lovers, as well as health-conscious consumers can enjoy this familiar, versatile, and profitable item in a format that meets their needs and delivers a highly valued, memorable experience.