Gluten Free Pasta – The Beginnings

Gluten Free Pasta copyright 2008 Owen Linderholm

Now that I am experimenting with gluten-free cooking I have discovered one true tragedy. Real bread is an impossibility. Sure there are lots of recipes that SAY they have good bread. But the bottom line is that for REAL bread you need gluten. The gluten is what makes the dough ‘thready’ and that holds it together during rising and after baking. So now it is time to dig into some food science (Harold McGee) and see what I can come up with to fake it. And, no, Xanthan gum is NOT a substitute.

The situation is even worse for pizza – all the G-F recipes I’ve seen call for spreading some kind of batter across a pan and then par baking. That’s not a pizza either. So again, another challenge.

The other food I feared for was pasta. There are two kinds of pasta. There is the extruded kind that is most often what you buy dried. It is made only of flour and water and is actually harder to make at home. Macaroni is the quintessential example of this. And extruded seems to work quite well for corn, rice and probably lots of other gluten free flours. I recently made a really nice macaroni and cheese with brown rice macaroni from Trader Joe’s. So that one isn’t a problem. But for homemade fresh pasta you are talking about rolled pasta – typically made with egg. And I was worried that it would prove that gluten was a necessary component of the elasticity in this kind of pasta dough. Research provided me with a host of recipes and experimentation proved that bean-based flours were not going to work. Nor was the relatively grainy brown rice flour. So I went with some other things I had tried. Again most recipes called for Xanthan gum so I used it but next time we are going to try it without. The ONLY thing wrong with the pasta I came up with was a bit of a slimy texture – almost certainly due to the Xanthan gum.

This pasta I made into taglialini – very fine square cut threads of pasta – a lot like angel hair. I rolled it on a cheap Italian stainless steel hand cranked pasta maker and it did take a little extra work at the thicker stages to develop the dough smoothly. But after that it worked great and I even rolled it one stage thinner than most recipes suggest. without any trouble.

Gluten Free Pasta Take One

2/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup fine cornflour
2/3 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup white rice flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Xanthan gum
3 tbsps olive oil
6 eggs

Put all dry ingredients in a sturdy bowl and stir to combine. Add the six eggs and olive oil and thoroughly mix, then kneed in to make a stiff dough. Adjust flour if needed or add a little water. Once thoroughly combined, wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to rest and then reknead.

Break about 1/6th of the dough ball off, rewrap the rest to prevent it drying out and then roll the small piece according to your pasta maker instructions or by hand until very thin (less than 1mm or about 1/16th of an inch. I then cut it using the pasta maker cutting attachment into taglialini.

If you want to use it right away, put a big pot of water on to boil as you start rolling. I then made a sauce before cooking the pasta. In this case it was a typical light Italian sauce made by frying 6 finely minced cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil along with a sprinkling of chili flakes. I then added 1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, finely minced and about 2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut into halves and cooked until the parsley wilted. I added a squeeze of lemon.

Then I cooked the pasta in boiling water for just under 2 minutes, and served with the sauce and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan.

For sources of good gluten free recipes, see the following:

Gluten-Free Girl
Better Batter Recipes
Karina’s Kitchen (Gluten-Free Goddess)


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  2. Hang in there, my friend. It’s hard at first. There are good pizza doughs, and decent breads. But actually, I think it’s best to do what you have done: acknowledge that it will never be the same. After awhile, you let go of the past ideal and creating food you love on its own.

    Your pasta looks great! Cornflour is the secret in Italy. And I’ve found that hand-rolled pasta works best.

    Keep playing!

  3. Gluten Free Pasta, modified from your recipe

    1/3 cup potato starch
    2/3 cup cornstarch
    2/3 cup fine cornflour
    1 cup tapioca flour
    2/3 cup white rice flour
    1 tsp salt

    5 tbsp olive oil
    6 eggs
    2 tbsp dried basil (optional)
    2 tbsp minced garlic (optional)

    Put all dry ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and sift several times to combine. Add the olive oil, eggs, basil and garlic and thoroughly knead with kneading attachment to make a stiff dough. Adjust flour if needed or add a little water. Once thoroughly combined, wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to rest.

    Break about 1/6th of the dough ball off, rewrap the rest to prevent it drying out. Cover counter with waxed paper and tape edges (I used two pieces and taped the seam, too), sprinkle rice flour on waxed paper and top of pasta pices. Roll thinly and slice into strips– a pizza wheel works nicely for this. Lift strips with spatula and pile on kitchen towel until ready to boil. Add 2 tbsp salt and 2 tbsp oil to large pot of boiling water, drop pasta in and boil for about 3 minutes.

    Note: Original recipe called for 1 tbsp xanthan gum, but my food allergy guy can’t have it, so I added potato starch.

  4. Actually, good GF breads are in fact possible. You just need the right mixture. I created my own multipurpose mix, and I can use all of my old recipes, I just adjust the liquids. I still make bread, hamburger and sandwich buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. Once you find the proper flour mixture, you can have all of the stuff you used to eat preGF. Hang in there, keep experimenting.

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