Today we're going to have a little chat about boiling gluten-free pasta successfully. It's not easy! My first attempts ended in a lump of mushy unidentifiable starch that could have been used as paper mache glue. But lately my family and I have started eating more and more gluten-free foods, and pasta is something my dear husband will never ever go without (cue Hannibal Lecter craziness at the suggestion...ffffffava beans!) and to be honest, I've been making a lot of mac'n'cheese for little girl's lunches. So needless to say I've gotten fairly good at making gluten free pasta. Without further ado...
1. Use a BIG pot! Gluten-free pasta wants to become sticky and glue-like. It yearns to clump together into a starchy mass. It's mostly held together by prayer and good wishes, so when you boil it in a small pot you're just asking for it to clump together.
2. Liberally salt the water. Gluten-free pasta can sometimes be a little...bland. Salt really helps bring out the flavor of the noodles.
3. Bring it to a rolling boil! I know I know, every box of gluten-free pasta says you can "let it sit in hot water" and it will cook successfully. It won't. It's pasta. Boil it.
4. Stir often. Like, stand over the pot and don't let go of your spoon, or your pasta will stick to each other and the bottom.
5. Check pasta often for firmness. With gluten-free pasta there is a fine line between "perfectly firm" and "paper mache glue." The time on the back of the box is not always the best guideline either. I've found that if I taste test every minute or two (after the first five minutes of boiling), I'm much more likely catch the pasta at optimum done-ness. Along these lines, pay close attention to the difference in color of the pasta from the ends of the noodle to the middle. If the ends still look a little lighter then the middle, it's not done. If it's all the same color, it's perfect.
6. Let your pasta cool a bit before you use it. Gluten-free approximations of wheat based products need time to congeal and firm up after being cooked. If you give it about 5 minutes to "jell" it will hold up a lot better when you mix in the sauce.
7. Toss lightly with olive oil. Sometimes even after you cook it to perfection, the innate yearning of gluten-free pasta to become a starchy mass will take over and it will clump together in the strainer. Tossing a little olive oil in there keeps them nice and slippery and keeps the noodles separate, their natural starchy urges under control.
So hopefully, if you followed all these tips, you will have some soft (but not too soft) delicious gluten-free pasta! I've found that once I learned to cook it correctly, I don't even miss wheat pasta at all! You really can't tell the difference, but the secret is in making sure it's cooked exactly right.
And once you have your gluten-free pasta cooked to perfection, you can do so much more with it then simply make spaghetti with marinara! You could make delicious meals like the ones below (Click on the pictures to see the original posts):
and if you're watching your waistline, this one:
And coming up soon we'll have the recipe for this one:
And if you're looking for more gluten-free meal ideas, you can check out our gluten-free cooking page. Enjoy!