Gluten Free Pasta

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I often hear people say they could never give up their bread, but for me...I think every morsel of pasta I’d enjoyed my entire life flashed before my eyes and I began to question if there was any reason to go on.  At least until a good friend saw my facebook lament and assured me that gluten free pasta does exist and my life was still very much worth living.

Thanks to the current popularity of the gluten free diet, food producers are responding by making more varieties of familiar foods available.  Once you get past the idea that pasta is made from wheat, you may find the additional variety interesting.

Take heart! You can still have all the pasta dishes you love.  Just find the gluten free pasta that works for you, add your favourite sauce and

ENJOY

Varieties of Gluten Free Pasta

It comes in all of the shapes that wheat past does and is made from various grains or blends of grains.  Check out the products page for brand suggestions.

Rice pasta:

This may be the most common variety of gluten free pasta.  It’s paler in colour than wheat pasta and in my opinion it’s a little bland in flavour.  However, pasta is usually a carrier for whatever sauce you choose, so if you’re topping it with something flavourful you won’t notice the difference.

Corn Pasta:

This is more yellow in colour.  I personally prefer the flavour of this to the rice pasta.  Just be careful not to overcook it.  This one more that the others has a tendency to lose its shape if over done.

4 Grain Pasta

There is no point pretending this isn't the clear winner.  Catelli seems to have found the perfect formula for gluten free pasta.  It’s a combination of white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa.  It holds together quite well and the flavour is very close to that of wheat pasta.  They have all of the varieties and you can easily find it in the supermarket right next to the rest of the pasta.  Even kind of makes you feel normal again.

Quinoa Pasta:

I found this one at Bulk Barn.  It’s white and red quinoa.  It has a nice texture and flavour, plus the colour add some interest.  This one is nice for salad.

Rice Noodles

These come in a few different shapes.  Mostly long stringy noodles in varying thicknesses, flat or round.  Used mostly in Asian dishes.  These are typically not cooked, just softened in hot water for a few minutes.

Cooking Tips:

Use a generous amount of boiling water.  All pasta is best cooked in a generous amount of water.  This is especially important for gluten free pasta.  It seems to release more starch into the water than wheat pasta so if there isn’t enough water it can become a bit mucky. 

Add a little salt.  Adding salt to the water boosts the flavour and helps keep it from sticking too.  You don't need to add oil when cooking dry pasta, only the fresh stuff needs oil.

Don't stir too much.  Just dump the pasta into the boiling water, give it a stir to ensure it's all separated then stir only a couple of more times during cooking to ensure it hasn't started to stick. 

Simmer don't boil.  Be gentle on your pasta!  After you pour it into the boiling water and give it that first stir, let the water come back to a boil then turn the heat down to a simmer.  This will keep the pasta from breaking up and from releasing too much starch. 

Do not overcook.  This is of course important for any pasta.  It should be served al dente; tender but still with some resistance when you bite into it.  This is especially important for gluten free pasta.  Because it has no gluten to hold it together, it’s not nearly so forgiving as wheat pasta and can cross the line quickly from al dente to mush.  Start with following the cooking time on the box, taste it, if it's not done wait another minute then test it again.

Drain and serve.  If your gluten free pasta needs to sit for a few minutes you can add some butter or olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Reheat with confidence, and a little moisture.  Sometimes leftover gluten free pasta gets a little hard in the fridge.  Adding sauce while reheating should tenderize it just fine.  If not then just a little water or other liquid will create some steam and freshen it up nicely. 

Pasta Substitutes:

Some people just don’t do well with grains at all.  That’s okay.  You can still have a perfectly healthy grain free diet, and with a little imagination it can be tasty and satisfying too.

Both zucchini and eggplant are vegetables with very mild flavour, so they take on the flavour of whatever you cook or top them with; much like pasta.  Slice your eggplant or zucchini, add a little course salt and leave it 15 min or so in a colander to draw the water out.  Then squeeze it dry with paper towels.  Then you can use it like pasta in a spaghetti dish or lasagne.  My family loves my eggplant parmesan.  They call it lasagne and say they really can’t tell the difference.  If you have a mandolin slicer, you can julienne slice a zucchini lengthwise so it looks like spaghetti.  Salt, drain and squeeze dry as described above then sauté in oil and dress like you would spaghetti.

Sliced Zucchini

Zucchini Lasagna

Spaghetti squash is a naturally stringy and naturally gluten free option.  Bake it in the oven then pull the lovely pulp out with and fork and add sauce.  Delicious, healthy, low carb, low calorie.  This might just be the perfect food.  Isn't gluten free life good!

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