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REVIEW: Schar Pasta

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Schar Rigatoni Pasta

Okay, I'll admit it. I've known about Schar pasta for a long time. (Since it was called, "Dr. Schar" pasta, in fact.) However, with its hefty price tag, I've never picked it up at the store. I like, and use, Tinkyada, which is about half the price of Schar. Finally, I decided to splurge and buy a box of Schar Pasta.

The box set me back $6.49 (Holy Moly! That is expensive. Wheat pasta is only about $1.25 per box and Tinkyada is about $3.25)At that price, I half expected the pasta to cook itself and then clean the pan. Sadly, it did neither.

Every Sunday night I seem to make pasta. This Sunday I was making "Pasta with Meat Sauce." (I'll post the recipe later.) I thought, "I wonder how the fancy pasta will hold up to my hearty meat sauce." Clearly it was time to try the pasta.

Unlike rice pastas, Schar pasta isn't made with just one ingredient. Rather it has a blend of ingredients: maize flour, rice flour, pea protein isolate, emulsifier: E-471.

The first ingredient, maize flour, made me a little nervous. I've tried corn pasta in the pasta and it didn't suit me. I was hoping that this pasta wouldn't be too corny and/or gummy.

I boiled my water, added salt and cooked the pasta. (I did not add oil to the water. Adding oil to the water really doesn't do anything for pasta and can make the sauce not cling to the noodles. So, if you are adding oil to your pasta water, you really don't need it. Now, you do need to salt. That adds flavor to the pasta.) At first glance, this pasta was remarkably wheat-pasta looking. You know how regular wheat pasta looks almost yellow before you cook it? That is how Schar pasta looked.

The pasta cooked quickly, in about 8 minutes. When I drained the pasta, I noticed that the tubes held their shape. Tinkyada pasta tubes seem to go a little limp. The Schar pasta did not break down or become flimsy even with vigorous shaking. I also noticed a light corn odor while draining the pasta. To me this was not troublesome at all. In fact, I thought it smelled a little better than Tinkyada which, to me, has a slightly funky smell when you first drain it.

I added my sauce and stirred. Even with my super chunky meat sauce the pasta held together. Also, it did not absorb the sauce like a sponge. I hate it when pasta does that to sauce. The sauce coated the pasta nicely.

It was time for the real test. How would it taste? It tasted great! Really great! Surprisingly great. The texture was nice and "pasta like." Not too firm, not too mushy. Occasionally, I would notice a hint of corn on my palate. This was more like a whisper of corn than a whomp over the head of corn. In fact, it reminded me a little of polenta. Since this pasta is made in Italy, the polenta aftertaste made even more sense.

I cleaned my plate with no problem. My two dinner mates also loved the pasta. One is a gluten-free eater, the other a wheat eater. Both really liked the pasta and could not detect the corn aftertaste until I mentioned it.

I have to admit, if money was no object I would probably switch to Schar. The way to pasta held its shape was really impressive to me. Plus, I liked the flavor. It did not compete with the sauce but added a nice bottom note.

However, at $6.49 per box, I think I will stick to Tinkyada. With the rising prices of gas and food, the Schar pasta wasn't that much better. It did a few things better but it wasn't "doubly" better than Tinkyada.

Summary: Schar is a gluten-free pasta from Italy. It is made up of a blend of ingredients. The first ingredient, corn, lends a very, very subtle polenta-like flavor to the pasta. This pasta held its shape very well, cooked easily and combined well with sauce. The only drawback was the price. This pasta is about twice as much as other gluten-free pastas.

Grade: A

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