Monday, August 18, 2014


We have a pasta dinner at least once a week in my family. Before my diet became gluten free, a favorite meal for us would either be a baked pasta like ziti or lasagna and we would have delicious leftovers for another day, or I would cook a pot of fresh pasta and pair that with a hearty meat sauce. Before the newer versions of GF pastas came out on the market, I could never just substitute brown rice pasta for regular semolina pasta and get away with calling it dinner at my table! It was awful in taste, gummy in texture, and could never stand up to leftovers. This meant making regular pasta for everyone else and boiling a separate pot of water for my portion of noodles. I was so happy to be able to eat anything remotely similar to pasta that I didn't complain much about the extra pots, strainers, and utensils to clean.

About a year ago, we were invited to our friends' apartment in Manhattan. Vicki's son, Ned, was in charge of making a dinner for us and he was sweet enough to make sure that even I could partake in the meal. He found a brand of GF pasta in one of the specialty shops in the city called "Bionaturae" Organic Gluten Free Pasta. What a difference it made! We could not tell that it wasn't "real" pasta. Reading the package, I saw that this pasta was a mixture of rice, corn and soy. A blend like this helps to create a better taste and texture. I was able to find this brand of pasta near my home at stores like Wegman's, Whole Foods and even Stop and Shop, and I now always keep packages of Bionaturae's penne, elbows, and fusilli in my pantry to grab for any night of the week. Thank you Ned!
  • The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is to never buy a single ingredient pasta. Corn pasta by itself is just as horrible as rice pasta. Always look for a mix of at least two different grains for the best taste and texture.
  • One of the most important tips I learned from watching my favorite chefs on television make their pasta dishes is something that becomes even more crucial with GF pasta. Rachel Ray, Mario Batali, and Lydia Bastianich all say it is important to cook your pasta a little shy of al dente and then let your pasta continue to "cook" in the pan with the sauce as you stir the entire dish together. This not only coats all of the pasta, but it imparts flavor into the actual noodle. By the time you are ready to serve a dish prepared this way, any kind of noodle would be delicious!
  • I have also learned to use the salted pasta cooking water as part of the sauce. It somehow acts a binder, helping the sauce stick to the noodles and it makes a healthier addition (it is just starchy water after all) than using oil, heavy cream, or butter to make more sauce. In order to have this water on hand when I finish up the sauce, I find it easier to scoop my cooked pasta out of the water with a big spider (or a slotted spoon) and transfer the pasta into the pan with the sauce instead of pouring the entire pot of water over a strainer in the sink. This way, you don't have to go to the trouble of remembering to save some of the water.

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