If you were diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance six or more years ago, you may have thought pasta was off your plate for good. Now, there are all kinds of dried and refrigerated gluten free pasta varieties at the grocery. They are made from corn or rice or quinoa or black beans, and many of them are quite good. I always have a box on hand for those "Ran late, need dinner now" emergencies. In fact, it is considered a basic staple in my well-stocked gluten free pantry post.
However, there is something magical about pasta, fresh, made at home. For the home cook, the idea of making pasta may be daunting. Is it hard? Is it messy? Do I need special equipment? And most importantly, is it worth it? No. Only if you are. No. And most emphatically, yes! Trust me, you do not need to be a gluten free chef to make delicious noodles at home! Our gluten free recipe for fresh pasta requires only five basic ingredients; eggs, good quality olive oil, salt, xanthan gum, and Cheatin' Wheat gluten free flour. And yes, it may take a little practice, but while you are learning, know that less-than-perfect pasta tastes good too!
Ok, maybe it is your first time. Or maybe you used to make pasta before becoming gluten free and now need to know how making gluten free pasta is different from making traditional wheat pasta. Either way, here are some tips to get you started.
Kneading Is Still Nice
Traditionally, you knead gluten pasta to develop that elastic network and give the dough a supple feel and chewy texture. With gluten free pasta, you are not kneading to develop gluten. Rather, you are working the dough to get the correct hydration. By actively working the dough with your hands, you have a better feel for the dough and can keep adding gluten free flour as necessary. You want the dough to be moist and malleable, but not sticky.
Forget You Have A Pasta Machine
It is more likely that you don't have to pretend because you do not even have a pasta machine! This is one of those instances where less is more. Gluten free pasta tends to tear and create a lot of frustration when being passed through a machine. However, it rolls out easily and beautifully by hand. All you need is a rolling pin and a little sweet rice flour to use as your dusting flour.
Before you ever grab the rolling pin, set up your work area and production line in advance. Find a smooth, flat surface with enough space to work comfortably - even if this means using your dining room table. Your work station should include your gluten free pasta dough, gluten free dusting flour, all cutters and tools, a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to take the finished pasta, etc. Also, it is important to keep the gluten free pasta dough from drying out as you work. Always work with manageable-sized pieces and keep any other dough wrapped or covered.
Thin Is In
Unless you are going for a thick noodle, make sure to roll your gluten free pasta super, duper thin. I mean it. Because of the xanthan gum, gluten free pasta tends to swell slightly as it cooks. This means it needs to be thinner than the final desired texture prior to cooking.
Make Your Sauce
Or heat-up your sauce. If it is something simple like garlic, olive oil and fresh grated cheese, get all of those prepped. The sauce should be waiting on the pasta, not the other way around. Fresh pasta takes mere minutes to cook. If your sauce is not ready before you drop the pasta in the water, it won't be ready in time. For something super simple, use our pesto recipe.
Think Sea Water
Huh? You read me. Cook your pasta in lots of boiling salted water. Use at least four quarts of water and 2 T. of salt per pound of pasta. For most home pots, this means never cooking more then two pounds at once.