Cooking Class: Produce Precise Pasta

Your guide to making your own gluten-free pasta at home, with tips from our resident baking expert.

Since I don’t have celiac disease, nor any gluten sensitivities, it’s easy for me to consume a nice plate of pasta. But I do understand the pain of those who cannot, especially when you eat out, and the establishment advertises “gluten-free” pasta available. You do your due diligence by asking lots of questions, to hopefully reassure yourself before eating the product. Then, a few hours later, your real problems begin.

It may have been a true gluten-free pasta product (based on the mouthfeel texture difference), but it was most likely cooked in the same water and pot as the restaurant’s gluten-based pasta products.

If you feel angry, that’s understandable. So, now you decide to embark on some adventures in cooking pasta at home. There are many excellent dried gluten-free pasta products available. Simply cook the gulten-free pasta according to the manufacturer’s directions (of course, in a clean, dedicated gluten-free pot with fresh, clean water and a touch of salt).

If you are willing to pursue mixing, rolling and shaping your own gluten-free pasta, let’s go!

Now, I’ve only developed one type of gluten-free pasta dough, which is in my gluten-free baking book. I only use it to produce a type of gnocchi. One of my readers informed me that they took my recipe and developed a spätzle-type form.

Of course, always investigate the source of every ingredient that you are considering using, especially the flour. Most authentic dried pasta products are produced by specific manufacturers. They utilize heavy-duty extruding-type machines because the doughs are very, very dry. Many gluten-free dried pasta products are made using a type of, or combination of, “pulse” flours. Pulse flours (from a variety of dried beans, peas and lentils, excluding soybeans) are very high in protein and fiber and come in many different flavors and colors.

For the average home cook, fresh, soft pasta dough is best. Eggs are the primary wet ingredient used because of the high-protein binding properties. In fact, you can use liquid egg whites, or at least 50% of the total eggs used can be whites. The extra protein will provide more “bite” to the pasta product upon cooking. How much to use? That’s up to you. If you make the dough to feel wetter, allow for time to absorb the liquid. Refrigerate the dough, uncovered at first for a few hours. Then wrap it up. Fresh dough is highly perishable due to the eggs and the high percentage of flour, which is subject to rancidity. If you’re not using it within a few days, freeze it or make smaller batches.

Click here for our homemade gluten-free pasta recipe!

As far as rolling out the dough, proceed with caution. Keep the shapes simple, like a basic flat-egg noodle. Use high starch content gluten-free flour for dusting, which can also be mixed with some cornmeal to give the pasta extra unique texture.

After shaping, it’s best to dry out somewhat at room temperature for up to one hour before cooking. You can also keep it stored in the refrigerator for up to two days or freeze it.

As far as the cooking process goes, gluten-free pasta products generally cook much more quickly than others (except for many of the dried manufactured versions). I like to make the cooking water extra salty, since the dough is quite bland. Use 1-2 tablespoons per 1-2 quarts of water used for cooking. If the salted water is at a full boil, fresh gluten-free pasta will sink to the bottom, so keep the water temperature up. Within 2-3 minutes, you should see the products begin to float. Carefully remove a sample, suspend in ice water, then sample for doneness. Be careful not to overcook the pasta. You might see a continuous layer of “foam” on the top of the cooking water. This is from the starches that have fallen out of the pasta. If a continuous amount forms, then consider discarding that water and start with a new pot of water.

 

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