When I learned I had celiac disease, the first thought I lurched into was: Pasta! No more pasta? That was December 2001 and it was a cold, dark day, indeed. I was devastated. I *heart* pasta. I lurve pasta. Just the very thought of pasta perks up my appetite and sparks my desire for saucy food and spicy romance. You know, sultry jazz and candlelight. Spaghetti dripping with garlicky olive oil. Pesto coated penne. Putanesca sauced linguine. Roasted vegetable stuffed lasagna. Creamy shells. The soft reliable comfort of macaroni and cheese.
My pasta love runs deep and true.
No wonder. My husband and I honeymooned in Tuscany, Italy. Talk about love food! Honey Baby, we have been in love- and in love with Italian food- ever since. Why? If it isn't obvious, let me count the ways.
Start with sensuous and fruity extra virgin olive oil. Or the intoxicating mingle of garlic and fresh lemon. Balsamic vinegar drizzled on a roasted peach. The brilliant combo of basil leaves and pine nuts. Soft, creamy globes of mozzarella sliced thin and snuggled in between disks of juicy ripe tomatoes. Crisp white wine and nibbles of salty sweet Parmesan. Oh my.
What's not to love, Dear Reader?
We indulged our senses for two aromatic and glorious weeks, painting the rolling Tuscan landscape, shopping at rustic family markets, juggling our pochade boxes with bags of tender spring artichokes, tubs of garlic infused olives, and wrapped wedges of divine cheeses. Not to mention, the local wines. And yes, the semolina pasta. When it comes to food and cooking, Italy sets the bar high for flavor.
So as any sensitive and perceptive reader might guess, the revelation of celiac disease was more than ironic. It felt criminal.
A sour and nagging sort of grief swept through me as I imagined a life without pasta that first gloomy, gluten-free night. And please know, Dear Heart, I'm making every effort not to be dramatic, but honestly, there's only so much you can do with a potato.
Giving up rustic loaves of crusty bread was hard enough, but finding a pasta we could live with was even harder. And, oh yes, we did try- cooking up various gluten-free alternatives to our favorite imported semolina pasta. Some were corn based. Others were potato or rice based. We were routinely disappointed. The spaghetti was either starchy or gummy, dense or mushy. Not qualities you look for in a noodle. One night I actually cried. It wasn't pretty.
Then, as karma– or luck– would have it, one clear-as-a-bell spring day, I found a slim and shiny package of Tinkyada Pasta Joy spaghetti in our local supermarket. A small miracle! In spite of my crusty cynicism, hope was quietly rekindled. I read the label ardently. It was whole grain brown rice pasta, with rice bran! Hmmm. This was good. My heart leapt. It did. (I know, I know, Darling, it sounds way over the top and goofy and ridiculous, but those of you diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten intolerance understand. These are big moments. Emotional moments. Good pasta, for many of us, is worth its weight in gold. Or at least, silver.)
That very night I stood in my humble Cape Cod kitchen and salted the clunky pot of simmering water with anticipation. I stirred the thin golden strands with all the expectancy of a child on the eve of a birthday. And Dear Cherished Reader, as you may have long ago guessed, I was not disappointed. I had finally found gluten-free pasta worthy of devotion. Ardor. Puttanesca sauce. Yes! One of my favorite comfort-love foods was back.
And in honor of that happy event, I offer you one of my favorite autumn-winter pasta sauces.
A Seductive Gluten-Free Pasta Recipe: Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts, Raisins and Pecans
Last night was cold and windy here in the high desert. The dark came way too early. I cooked up a batch of my favorite gluten-free spaghetti, and tossed it in a savory sauce that evokes the best of autumn with a touch of fall sweetness, garlic, and crunch.
3/4 lb gluten-free pasta
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 10-oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pecan pieces, chopped, briefly toasted in a dry skillet
A splash of Calvados or Cognac (may omit)
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Add a tablespoon of sea salt to a large pot of water, and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until it is al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and add the garlic; stir just until the garlic begins to soften and turn golden. Add the chopped artichokes and stir; season with basil.
When the artichokes soften, add the raisins and a splash of Calvados; shake the pan and cook lightly - just until the pasta is ready. When the pasta is done, drain and transfer it into the waiting skillet.
Toss the pasta into the sauce to coat; add the pecans and sprinkle with half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano; toss again and stir in the pecans and cheese.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Spoon into warm shallow plates and serve immediately with a dusting of the remaining cheese.
Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com
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