"I understand we’re trying to eat more healthy, but does the pasta have to taste like glue?” moaned my man Patrick over a plate of mushy gluten-free pasta.
“Just eat the meat and the sauce. Who needs the pasta?” replied Patrick’s pragmatic nephew John, who had dropped in for dinner.
“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti,” I purred in the sexiest Italian accent I could summon. They stared at me blankly. “It’s a famous quote from Sophia Loren,” I explained.
“It wasn’t gluten-free spaghetti that gave Sophia those hips,” Patrick replied. “And she certainly wouldn’t have eaten this sh—”
“All right,” I interrupted, “take it easy. Half my friends have gone ‘G.F.,’ as they’re calling it. I’ll ask around and find out what pasta they’re using.”
“Trader Joe’s Corn Pasta is the one we like best,” offered Janine (penne or spaghetti for $1.39 for 16 ounces). “I like the corn over the rice because it doesn’t end up gluey. And the taste is closer to traditional pasta. The downside is that it’s not great as leftovers. It dries up quickly and doesn’t revive well.”
Margaret agreed with Janine, except about the leftovers. “Trader Joe’s corn pasta has more structural integrity than rice pasta, which does get gluey. And I have found the corn pasta holds up well as a leftover. The rice pasta, no way.”
“I like Trader Joe’s corn pasta for regular pasta dishes and brown-rice pasta for soups,” suggested Sue.
“If it’s gluten-free, it ain’t Italian. And if it ain’t Italian, it ain’t pasta. Just call ’em noodles,” said my friend Toni. I’ll let you guess her heritage.
Kathleen suggested the Trader Joe’s organic brown-rice penne ($1.99 for 16 ounces). “I cook the penne brown-rice pasta for precisely seven minutes and rinse it immediately. Perhaps that prevents glueyness. I have reheated it the next day and it was fine.”
Roisin was another Trader Joe’s brown-rice pasta fan. “I have found it the best when prepared al dente or even a tad less done than that. It cuts down on the mushy, gluey texture. Of course, when you’re cooking with your favorite red handy, who cares?”
Roisin added, “I prefer it in the tubular or short-form cuts because the long strands can easily be overcooked.”
“Lots more water for cooking with rice pasta to minimize the glueyness,” cautioned Serena, “and don’t overcook it.”
Alicia recommended Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta ($2.99 for eight ounces at Sprouts). “It’s made with quinoa and corn,” she said.
“I agree with Alicia,” offered Teresa, “the Ancient Harvest Quinoa is best.”
“What is quinoa?” asked Patrick.
“Let me tell you,” I countered, reading off the box. “A tiny grain no bigger than a mustard seed once fed an ancient civilization which stretched from the seacoast of Chile to the snow-capped peaks of the Peruvian Andes — the vast Inca Empire. The Incas called it quinoa, ‘the mother grain.’
“So sacred was quinoa to the Incas that each year the mighty Inca ruler himself planted the first row of quinoa with a solid gold spade. As rugged as the Andes, quinoa has flourished in cultivation for over 5000 years.”
“Enough, I got it,” stated Patrick. “It’s the superman of grains.”
“If you want to go fresh,” offered Nicole, “Lisko’s Artisan Deli [619-252-7687; liskoartisandeliandfishmarket.com] has great chickpea pasta. But don’t overcook it.”
“We sell a chickpea eggless pasta,” offered the saleslady at the deli ($8 for a pound, $14 for two pounds). “It is really easy to cook, just bring the water to a boil, then throw in the pasta and it takes about 45 seconds to cook.”
Gluten-free pioneer Paul says Del Cerro’s Windmill Farms Market (windmillfarms.net) is his destination of choice for gluten-free products. “We like the Cadia Brown Rice pasta from Windmill Farms [$2.39 for 16 ounces]. The brown-rice pasta you have to cook it in half the time of normal pasta; otherwise, it turns into soup. The fusilli pasta works better than the spaghetti. I also go to Windmill Farms to get their gluten-free deli sandwiches.
“Our second favorite gluten-free shopping spot is Keil’s Food Stores in San Carlos,” Paul added. “It’s convenient because our favorite restaurant for gluten-free food is the Trails [619-667-2233], right in the same shopping center. I love their gluten-free pancakes [$6.29 for two].”