Gluten free pasta. If it’s wheat free, what’s in it then?

Gluten free pasta is a staple of any coeliac sufferer’s diet. But what’s in gluten free pasta? And why do some taste like the real thing; while others taste like wallpaper paste?

Wheat free pasta is made from rice, corn, potato and vegetables. (Or more often than not a mix.)

Rice pastas
Orgran do a range of rice and rice/mix pastas including stoneground buckwheat and rice pasta; vegetable rice pasta; and a plain rice pasta. When you’re cooking, you need to keep an eye on the rice and rice/mix pastas otherwise they do have a tendency to go a bit gloopy. And they need a thorough rinse once they’re cooked.

Doves Farm do a number of rice based gluten free pastas that are organic and are really nutty and flavoursome. Favourites include their fusilli, penne and spaghetti.

Corn pastas
Corn (maize pastas) are quite neutral in taste and make a great base for spicy, tangy or creamy sauces. They’re often flavoured with spinach, peppers and sundried tomatoes as well. But, like rice pasta, corn pasta can fall apart quickly. So you need to ensure you don’t overcook it. One minute it looks fine and the next minute it’s a mushy paste in the bottom of your pan. Now personally, I think corn pasta gets a bit rubbery when it’s cool so it’s not great for salads.

Orgran do a number of corn only pastas which are pretty good.

Rice/corn mixes
The easiest gluten free pastas to cook – and the most versatile – are the corn and rice mix pastas. So it’s always worth having a couple of bags in the cupboard.

Doves Farm produces a delicious corn/rice penne, made in Italy. As does Dietary Specials, Orgran, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Our favourite gluten free pasta though is the buckwheat, corn and rice spirals from Hale & Hearty. Perfect with a tomato sauce, oven roasted vegetables, olives and smoked mozzarella. Delicious!

Buckwheat Kasha Salad with Halloumi Cheese

This recipe is taken from The Wheat and Dairy Free Cookbook by Terence Stamp & Elizabeth Buxton.

Buckwheat is used extensively in Russian cuisine. Buckwheat contains more than 13 per cent protein and has a high amino acid content. Toasted and cooked like this it adds a nutty taste to any dish. Halloumi is a traditional white, semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese.

  • 1 halloumi cheese
  • A little all-purpose wheat-free flour for dusting

For the Kasha Salad:

  • Buckwheat – 225 g (8 oz)
  • Olive oil – 4 tbsp
  • Water – 1 litre (1¾ pint)
  • Mint, finely chopped – 55 g (2 oz)
  • Flat parsley, chopped – 55 g (2 oz)
  • Finely sliced spring onion/scallion – 4 tbsp
  • Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced – 300 g (10½ oz)
  • Lemon juice – 4 tbsp
  • Black pepper
  • Pumpkin seeds – 75 g (3 oz)

Rinse the buckwheat in plenty of cold running water. Drain thoroughly. Put half the olive oil in a saucepan, add the buckwheat and fry, stirring until toasted and golden. Be careful not to burn. Pour in the water, cover and simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave to stand, covered, for 5 minutes. If there is sediment on the grains, rinse again under running water.

Put the remaining ingredients except the pumpkin seeds in a bowl and mix well. Leave to stand.

Heat a heavy non-stick frying pan/skillet. Do not add any oil. When hot put in the pumpkin seeds and shake over a high heat until the seeds start to ‘pop’. Remove from the pan and put on a plate. Sprinkle these over the kasha salad just before serving.

Slice the cheese lengthways to a thickness of about 1 cm/½ in, dust with a little flour and dry-fry in a non-stick pan until the cheese is a rich caramel brown. Serve with the kasha salad.

Serves 4 as a main meal