I have wanted to make gluten free fresh pasta for ages. I have no idea why I have waited until now. Laziness? Possibly…… Worry that it is too difficult? Maybe…..
Either way, spurred on this month by a foodie challenge : Pasta Please (which I have never actually entered before), I decided it was time to give it a go…….
I haven’t made pasta for years. Although we were given a pasta machine as a wedding present, our little girl followed shortly after and time became a premium, juggling child care with busy jobs and sleepless nights (which unfortunately, went on for years). A few birthdays on came the diagnosis of Coeliac Disease and our usual brands of fresh pasta were off the menu.
It really is time to tackle this…….. With an Italian heritage on one side of the family, I was raised on pasta. I recall my grandmother’s kitchen being draped with the stuff…. freshly made and drying on every available surface. Why shouldn’t my daughter experience similar memories and develop the skills to make GF pasta herself?
Although I did a bit of research on other GF pasta recipes across the net (of which there seem to be relatively few), I have pretty much started from scratch (apart from a comparable flour to liquid/egg ratio (which seems to be relatively standard).
Regular readers will recall that a while back I discovered a flour I had not used before (glutinous rice flour) which I had tried out when making GF Jaffa Cakes. Available in Thai shops and oriental grocers, one of the particular qualities that was notable when I used this flour was how malleable the dough became. This flour absolutely had to be incorporated into the pasta mix.
I also have discovered another new ingredient : modified tapioca (or cassava) starch which helps to mimic the qualities of the gluten missing from gluten free flours, but seems to be slightly more natural than xanthan gum. This had to be tested too, although in view of the need for pasta dough to be extremely pliable and stretchy, I decided to combine the two together. I figured this would lessen the need to use excessive amounts of xanthan gum, which can give a slight bitterness if used in larger quantities, but still allow me to have some control with an ingredient I know well.
Modified Tapioca/Cassava Starch can be found on the internet in the form of a product called Isabel’s Baking Fix in the UK. In the States it is sold as a product called Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch.
And so to the pasta-making…….
The recipe here is my second attempt. Actually, the first (seen draped over the pasta drier) worked really well too, but I wanted to get it thinner, cut narrower, see whether it would still hold together with less xanthan gum and alter the flavour slightly (which meant changing the flour combinations).
I am so excited…… This is the first tagliatelle we have eaten in about 4 years! I love tagliatelle…… the way the sauce coats the thin ribboned strips, the way it chews, the versatility…… But trying to find gluten free tagliatelle has always been fruitless…… You can get dried corn and rice versions of spaghetti, penne, fusilli and lasagne, but I have never yet come across tagliatelle.
This pasta dough is amazing….. It looks like pasta…… acts like pasta……. rolls like pasta……. cooks like pasta…….. and most importantly tastes like pasta…… It doesn’t disintegrate when you cook it a minute too long. It kneads…… yes…… really! I haven’t kneaded anything in years……… I was dancing round the kitchen at the opportunity to feel the dough pummelling in my palms……. My daughter was so enthralled by the process and the sensation of kneading, I almost had to wrestle the dough out of her hands to fulfil my own need to push, pound and manipulate my fingers in the squidgy dough…..
And how simple was it to make? Throw it in the food processor and apart from kneading and rolling, it was done! It does require lots of kneading to get it to roll smoothly, but I found that if you run it through the pasta machine a few times, kneading between each rolling, this develops the texture superbly. This is worth the time……. Everything I read about home-made gluten free pasta suggested not to roll it any lower than the third thinnest setting. On my first attempt, I followed this advice, but it was too thick for us. The second attempt I took down to the second level and it worked perfectly. I tried going to number 1 and this was paper thin and holding well, but I am not that confident with a pasta machine (yet!) and I struggled to handle it through the tagliatelle cutter. Well I say ‘I’….. actually, my daughter was pretty much taking over the rolling process and at 9, seemed more competent than I was!
We have now tried this pasta with a whole range of sauces and they have all been great. The pasta shown here has been simply coated in mushrooms gently sautéed and mixed with pesto. Perfect!
I am so pleased to be sharing this pasta that I am going to send it off to a few challenges this month :
Eat Your Greens with Shaheen at Allotment to Kitchen, on account of my pasta’s beautifully flavoursome pesto sauce.
Gluten Free Fresh Pasta (serves 4)
extra GF plain flour (rice, sorghum or blend) for kneading and rolling.
- In a food processor, weigh and mix together the flours, salt, modified tapioca starch and xanthan gum.
- Add the eggs, oil and water and mix together until a dough forms.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for about 5 minutes until really smooth.
- Cut the dough into 4 pieces and set the pasta maker to the highest flat-roller setting. Flatten each piece of dough with your fingertips and set aside three pieces under a damp cloth until ready to use.
- Run the first piece of dough through the machine and then re-knead by hand on a floured surface. You may want to do this a couple of times, or until the dough comes through smooth. Be patient. The rolling-kneading process helps the dough to become more ‘glutinous’ so that it starts to behave like normal pasta.
- When you are happy that your rolled dough is working like pasta should, gradually reduce the thickness settings until your pasta has been rolled to the 2nd narrowest setting. You may want to lightly flour the roller and/or pasta dough before you start to put through the machine, to help it to run smoothly. Place the rolled pasta on a floured sheet under a damp cloth until ready to cut into shapes (or cut straight away before moving onto the next piece of dough).
- Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough and cut your pasta into your chosen shape or use the rolled dough to make ravioli, lasagne, etc.
- Set your cut pasta aside on a floured tray until ready to use. If not using that day, refrigerate or freeze.
- To cook your pasta, place in boiling salted water with a drizzle of olive oil and simmer for about 3 minutes until al dente.