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Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Cook Gluten-Free Pasta Correctly

In the past year, I have acquired a number of new clients who are transitioning to a gluten-free &/or Paleo way of eating in order to overcome health issues such as leaky gut syndrome, obesity, stomach pain, allergies, headaches, asthma, etc.  There are many great reasons to eliminate gluten from your diet and there are tons of blogs devoted to this subject.  I am not completely gluten-free myself (yet) but due to demand, I am learning how to cook that way for clients who DO want to adapt to this lifestyle. 

I don't know about you, but I love pasta and I could never give it up completely.  I enjoy making pasta from scratch - there is nothing better. It's fun experimenting with different flours, herbs, flavorings, etc.  I have not tried making pasta from scratch with non-gluten flours YET, but I have found several commercial brands of hard, gluten-free pasta that are very good i.e. De Boles, Ancient Harvest, Barilla, Banza, Ronzoni, Bionaturae, etc., my favorite one being Tinkyada brand. The main reason that people shy away from making brown rice pasta is they don't know how to cook it correctly. Never fear! I have figured out the best way to cook it so that it does not end up mushy or sticky and comes out perfectly al dente (firm to the tooth). I know you're probably thinking that all you have to do is follow the package directions; however, I have done this in the past, with disastrous results!  So here are my TRIED and TRUE TIPS for perfect gluten-free pasta.

Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta - one of my favorite brands

Step 1) Fill a large deep soup/stock pot with at least 64 ounces or more of water.  Add 2 heaping Tablespoons kosher salt. You want the water to taste like the sea!

Step 2) Bring salted water to a rolling boil, then add the package 
of pasta all at once and give it a good stir.  Do not add oil.

Step 3) Bring the pasta back up to a boil and keep an eye on it.  Stir it occasionally as it cooks so it doesn't stick together.  Boil for approximately 6 minutes (this is the recommended time for lasagne noodles, fusilli, penne, etc. Spaghetti noodles might be just 5 minutes from the time it boils)

Step 4) After 6 minutes, turn the heat off completely and put a lid on the pot.  Let the pasta stand in the hot water for another 5-6 minutes.  Check it for doneness after about 3 minutes if you want the pasta al dente.

Step 5)  Once pasta is done, give it another stir, then drain it well but do not rinse.  Rinsing will take away flavor.  Just shake it well in the strainer.  

Step 6)  Pour pasta back into the pot, drizzle with a little good quality olive oil and shake the pot gently so that pasta doesn't stick together.  Serve warm with your favorite sauce & toppings.  



Italian Pasta Salad (gluten-free / vegetarian)

Yield:  8 generous side dish portions
  • 1 pkg DeBoles Quinoa Penne Pasta (cook in boiling, well salted water according to package directions, then drain but do not rinse and let cool slightly)
  • 2 raw zucchini, diced or cut into thin small strips on a mandolin
  • 1 pkg Suzie's Farm organic sunflower greens 
  • 8-10 kale leaves, spines removed, rough chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup Organicville Red Wine & Olive Oil salad dressing
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1) Put all of the above ingredients (except sunflower seeds) in a large salad bowl (it's fine if pasta is still slightly warm).  Toss everything together well to coat with the dressing.  Add more dressing if necessary.
2)  Garnish with toasted sunflower seeds and serve immediately, or, refrigerate for several hours before serving.  I prefer to eat this at room temperature.  It's a great make-ahead dish.

Additional Ingredient Options if you are not vegetarian
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled crisp bacon or prosciutto
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
Italian Pasta Salad made with De Boles Quinoa Penne
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