Finding decent gluten free pasta can feel like the holy grail in the early days of going GF.
I remember soon after Bunky’s diagnosis we went on a mad search to replace her beloved mac and cheese. We had used Annie’s brand in the G days, but at the time the creamy GF version wasn’t readily available.
B had never been a fan of the orange powder. (My kid has standards, okay?) But desperate times. So we bought a couple versions with powder and ALL were failures. The one that stuck out the most was a strangely yellow hued macaroni made from corn. After B pushed away her bowl looking utterly dejected, my husband and I took a bite. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? Yup. It could. It was.
Soon after we found Annie’s GF creamy mac (score!) but looking back, I realize now that it wasn’t the pasta’s fault. (The orange powder cheese is another story.) Our brains and taste buds were programmed to seek out gluten. After a lifetime of eating gluten pasta, one bite of corn pasta is a shock to the system. It doesn’t taste bad, necessarily, but it does taste different. Like when you accidentally take a sip of milk thinking it’s your orange juice and you gag because of the shock, not because the milk tastes bad.
There were other failures, too. Overcooked brown rice pasta was a big one. The summer after B’s diagnosis I had an urge to make our family’s favorite summer pasta dish: cubes of fresh mozzarella, chunks of tomato, and slivers of sweet basil, all tossed together with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I cooked the Tinkyada rice pasta following the directions on the package. Big mistake. You know how it went down. It was a soggy, mushy, slippery, rubbery mess. I can very clearly remember putting one fork full in my mouth after another in front of my daughter, pretending to enjoy it, pretending it was fine, when really I wanted to cry.
I didn’t make pasta for six months after that. Which is terribly sad, really, because pasta can (and should) be delicious. Not only that, but pasta is supposed to be a mama’s best friend for a fast easy dinner. Big, huge, annoying bummer.
Fast forward months, years. After talking with other celiac families and reading countless blogs and articles, we figured some things out about pasta (among other things). Like you can NOT overcook GF pasta because it will suck. Especially brown rice pasta. We learned how Tinkyada can be good, great even, if you are careful to watch the clock and test the noodles periodically. Jovial is another great brown rice pasta. Pick some up, especially if you see it on sale. Totally worth it.
We also decided to give out some second chances. Brands we had initially thought were mediocre (at best) we realized were actually great, like Bionaturae, for example. Hey, it’s made in Italy for crying out loud! Italy, we discovered, is very celiac-friendly. Which makes sense, if you think about it. How could a country that is famous for gluten-rific dishes not take care of the population who is gluten free? Answer, they do. Very well. Note to self: go to Italy ASAP.
Other great brands we’ve tested and loved are: Schar (so good! always!) and Mrs. Leeper’s brown rice spaghetti and corn spaghetti. Yes, corn! We gave it another shot and love it. Especially in this recipe with diced tomatoes, garlic, white wine and shrimp. Yum.
Which brings me to my new favorite GF pasta – fresh. Yes, you read that correctly. Fresh gluten free pasta does exist. And it’s awesome. We discovered RP’s brand recently and I buy it whenever I order from Fresh Direct and it’s always a hit. They make fettuccini (regular and spinach), linguini, and fusilli. Click here to find a store near you that sells it.
Just like any GF pasta, the key is DO NOT overcook. The great thing about fresh pasta is that it’s ready in 2 minutes. Seriously. No joke. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but so is gluten fresh pasta. It’s worth a splurge every now and then. Or, um, almost every week.
This delicious recipe, adapted from About.com, is reason enough to try out this pasta.
Butternut Squash Pasta with Brown Butter and Sage
- 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 pounds (I’ve used about half and it was OK)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 packages of RP’s fresh fettuccine*
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 dozen sage leaves (or as many as you get in a package)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
* It really depends on how much pasta you eat. My family of three (not counting the Little Guy) can easily put away 2 packages. You could also use any kind of regular GF pasta. If so, you’ll want to cook it a few minutes sooner since it will need more time.
1. Heat oven to 375°. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash. Scoop out seeds and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes. You could also buy the squash pre-cut and cubed. Toss squash with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread it out on a large jelly roll pan or roasting pan.
2. Roast for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned, turning about halfway through the roasting time.
3. When the squash is nearly finished, put water on to boil for the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks super fast, so wait until after step 4 to cook it.
4. In a large saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat, cook butter and sage leaves until the butter begins to brown. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Do not let the butter (or garlic) burn. Remove from heat and remove the sage with a slotted spoon; use a spoon to crumble. It should smash up into pieces quite easily.
5. Cook pasta as directed on the package. About 2 minutes for RP’s fresh pasta.
6. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the butter mixture, along with the crumbled sage and roasted butternut squash. Put back on the heat and continue cooking stirring, until pasta and squash are hot. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Toss with the 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese just before serving. Garnish with more Parmesan.
By the way, tonight I gave Bunky a new pasta – Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa made from quinoa and corn flour. She didn’t bat an eye. Ate up the entire bowl. Sure, it was doused with butter, but still. Made me a bit teary to see how far we’ve come.
I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma, Eat.Live.Make, and Gluten Freed R.D., and One Creative Mommy’s Gluten Free Monday link up. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.