How to Cook the Perfect Gluten-Free Pasta

Chef Higgins at George Brown College

Chef Higgins lays out a delicious gluten-free tasting at George Brown College for Catelli Gluten-Free pasta

The celebration continues! If you haven’t entered my contest for your chance to WIN a 1-year supply (60 boxes) of Catelli Gluten-Free Macaronithe link is here!! Contest closes June 27/14 and is open to Canadian residents (except Quebec).

In honour of this very generous giveaway from Catelli, I’m sharing some great tips I recently got from Chef John Higgins, director at George Brown College, on how to prepare the perfect gluten-free pasta. I have gone through many, many packages of gluten-free pastas trying to figure out what works (i.e. how to avoid the sticky, gummy, mushy mess that can happen when you don’t do things quite right). So I hope you’ll find the tips below helpful :)

1. Pasta should be cooked according to the directions on the box. For recipes that require the pasta to be cooked in sauce, however, cook only until an al dente, drain, and finish the pasta for the last couple minutes in the sauce. This will help keep your pasta from going gummy and mushy from over-cooking, will help get the sauce hot and nicely incorporated into your pasta, and will help you avoid the dreaded “cold rinse”. When finishing in sauce, cut one to two minutes off the cooking time on the package.

2. When cooking pasta, use a large pot. You will need one quart of water to approximately 100 grams of pasta. Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and not stick together.

3. Over-seasoning the water with salt – bringing it almost to the taste of the sea – will substantially enhance the flavour profile of the dish. As a rule of thumb, use 10 grams of salt for one litre of water and 100 grams of pasta. (I recommend using sea salt; and note that this step is optional.)

4. Never add oil to the water when cooking pasta. It does not keep it from sticking together. Do you ever find a big pool of sauce at the bottom of your bowl after you just finished eating pasta that had no sauce actually on it? That’s because oil creates a coating that prevents the sauce from adhering to the pasta. You want your pasta to soak up the sauce, not repel it!

5. Always stir the pasta for about 45 seconds after adding it to boiling water. Then, stir occasionally as the cooking process continues, especially during the first three minutes, as that’s when the pasta can stick together.

6. To test if the pasta is ready, bite into a noodle. If the external noodle is soft and yellow in colour (indicating doneness) and the core is a chalky white colour (indicating that it is a little underdone), the pasta is ready to be removed from the water.

7. Never rinse pasta after cooking, as it’s important to retain the starch to enable the sauce to coat.

8. When making a pasta dish, think about the harmony of taste, texture and balance between noodle and sauce. Thin pasta strips, for example, work best with a classic tomato, seafood or pesto sauce. Thicker pasta cuts, such as fettuccine, are wonderful for a cheese or cream-based sauce. Filled pasta is ideal with a light tomato broth or cream sauce.

9. Use herbs generously for added flavour. When using parsley – the most used herb in the Italian kitchen – don’t chop it, but rather, slice it with a sharp knife. If you see a green stain when you cut herbs, that means your knife is not sharp and you are losing flavour to your cutting board. For basil, another popular pasta-enhancing herb, tear the leaves rather than chop them to avoid bruising the herb. Always add herbs to the pasta at the last minute to retain their vibrant colour and natural flavour. To keep stored herbs fresher and longer, wrap them in a lightly-moistened paper towel, then place in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.


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