Friday, August 13, 2010

Pasta, Pasta!!

I love pasta. I always have, but I love it even more now because of all the varieties of actual gluten-free pastas on the market. Thinking back to ten years ago I recall there was uhhh...nothing. I didn't eat pasta for several years after my diagnosis of Celiac Disease because, well...there weren't any on the market. Those were the early days when brown riced ruled my world and I would create an impressive variety of dishes solely encompassing boiled brown rice, veggies, hard boiled eggs and maybe some cheese. Good times.

I also remember back to just seven or eight years ago being on vacation in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Walking through some of the grocery stores in Impanema, I was in awe of allllll the gluten-free products on the shelves - and not only where they on the shelves, they were clearly marked with a gluten-free logo denoting that even someone who wasn't fluent in Portuguese could figure out. So, on both of my trips to Brazil I loaded up on crackers, pasta and other products that could not be found in the States at that time and brought them home with me. But what was the most eye-opening and astounding part of those fond memories was the fact that I discovered these products in a country (at that time) that was still considered a developing nation, even though it is South America's most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world's biggest democracies. I would love to visit again and peruse the local grocery aisles to see what kind of products are available now and how the restaurants and vendors' awareness of Celiac Disease have been elevated.

Another favorite stop on my map for gluten-free pastas and products has always been Italy - however, now we (as in the U.S.) carry more gluten-free products than I've recently found in Europe, so it's a real momentum swing in our favor, especially in the last five years. You can still find terrific GF products overseas and hands-down, certain western European countries have a greater understanding and awareness of preparing foods properly, but product for product, the U.S. seems to be on a roll.

In my product research and collection of favorite food sites, I really enjoy Market Hall Foods of Oakland, and their effort to stock some authentic, Italian GF pastas which I have ordered and cooked with. Their GF pasta brand is Rustichella d'Abruzzo, who recently introduced their gluten-free pasta line. These artisanal pastas are made from freshly-milled, non-GMO Italian corn and rice and are 100% gluten-free. I found them to be quite tasty and held their form well, but honestly, my favorite GF pastas which are more affordable and easier to find, are Tinkyada rice pastas.

The photo and recipe in this post includes Tinkyada's brown rice penne pasta. I'm just a big fan of how well the pasta holds its shape and texture...and flavor. And when you eat the leftovers the next day, their pasta is still fresh and never soggy. You can find this brand at Whole Foods and some mainstream grocery stores now, as well.

The Gluten-free Mall also offers a large selection of GF pastas that you order on line and have delivered to your front door. Another company that's been leading the way for gluten-free products in Europe for decades is now in the States, Schar. I first bought some of their products in Italy, as they have been the premier GF supplier there for years. The company has a very interesting history and in 2007 they opened their first U.S. headquarters in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Schar USA now provides high quality gluten free products to many of the U.S. major chains. If you've ever ordered an gluten-free meal on an international flight, you were eating some of their products...with that said, you might be inclined to give Schar another try, post-flight. In my opinion there's really just no delicious way to eat on a airplane unless you pack the food yourself...or sit in first-class! Schar also offers an on-line store that sells quite a variety of their own pasta brands. I have not personally tried their pasta, but they are on my list to check out and review.

There are two other online companies worth mentioning, one who also sells homemade gluten-free pastas, DePuma's Gluten Free Pasta in Connecticut and will ship to your door. As well as, Olive Nation, out of Italy via the States. I was so excited to find they carry my favorite corn pasta that I have only been able to find in Rome, Le Veneziane Corn Pasta. Needless to say, I'll be stocking up.

With so many delicious, authentic choices available to us just got a bit sweeter, non?

Summer Pasta Primavera
(okay, with sausage!)

Serves 4

- 1 Bag of Tinkyada brown rice pasta (2.5 cups)

- 3-4 Gluten-free sausages, sun-dried tomato (pick your favorite), Sliced

- 1 Cup baby red tomatoes (halved)

- 2 Zucchini (medium), sliced thinly

- 1 Shallot (small), diced

- 1 Yellow onion (small), chopped

- Fresh Basil leaves

- 1/2 Cup fresh shredded cheese (Asiago and Parmigiana are best)

- 3 Tbsp. Olive oil

- Salt and pepper to taste

- Dash of fig balsamic vinegar

Saute chopped onions and shallot in pan with olive oil. When they are translucent, add zucchini slices and saute until they are al dente, then add baby tomatoes and sliced sausage and simmer together on low heat for 5-8 minutes. On another burner, time out the cooking of your pasta so it's ready when your saute is cooked. With most GF pastas, they require between 12-15 minutes at a boil. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add a tsp. of olive oil and stir. Then add your vegetable saute and mix together. Salt and pepper to taste. Top each bowl with a handful of fresh cheese and basil leaves, along with a drizzle of fig balsamic.

Mangia mangia!!

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