March is National Noodle Month. For persons with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye, National Noodle Month used to be a non-starter as an observance, since most pasta is made from wheat flour.
Things have come a long way in the past few years. There are many, very good gluten-free pasta products on the market, from linguine to rotini to lasagna noodles. Some of my favorite brands (found variously at Whole Foods, Raley's and DuBois Health Foods in Carson City) are Tinkyada, Lundberg, de Boles and Bionaturae from Italy.
I had hoped that nobody in Italy, the land of pasta, had to deal with celiac disease. It turns out that Italians have a very high incidence, a thorough knowledge of diagnosing and treating it, and a national website that lists restaurants that have gluten-free offerings on their menus.
Italy tests all children for celiac disease at an early age, and requires schools, hospitals and public places to make gluten-free foods available. Gluten-free food products are sold in the pharmacies in Italy, and persons with celiac disease receive stipends for food purchases as well as extra vacation time for procuring and cooking gluten-free foods.
One in 250 persons in Italy has been diagnosed with celiac disease, although the incidence is believed to be 1 in 100 in its younger population. Contrast that to our rate of diagnosis in this country, which is 1 in 4,700, possibly leaving 97 percent of Americans with celiac disease undiagnosed.
Experts opine that our country lags in its knowledge of celiac disease because there is no pharmacological cure for it — it can only be treated through diet. So, since there is no money to be made on this disease, it is ignored.
That being said, I haven't yet been able to purchase gluten-free ravioli any closer than Davis, Calif., so here is a recipe for gluten-free noodle dough that makes great ravioli. This recipe was adapted from the teachings of Mary Capone, who has a spectacular book of Italian recipes and more on her website, Wheat-Free Gourmet. You may have seen her recipes in Living Without.
Gluten-Free Pasta DoughServes 4
11⁄2 cups flour mix* (see below)
1⁄4 cup tapioca flour
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
11⁄2 teaspoon Xanthan gum
2 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons warm water
Put the flours, salt and Xanthan gum in a food processer; pulse to combine. Add the eggs and olive oil and mix just until the dough forms a ball. Check the moisture level of the dough after you've added 2 tablespoons. Slowly add more, 1⁄2 teaspoon at a time, until the dough is pliant and not gritty.
Wrap the dough in tapioca-floured plastic wrap and let it rest for 1⁄2 hour.
If you are using a pasta roller/cutter:
Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Using a board or waxed paper with lots of tapioca flour on it, roll 1 wedge at a time into a playing-card size and shape about 1⁄8-inch thick. Keep the dough that is not in use tightly wrapped.
Roll the prepared dough through the pasta machine or attachment a few times at the thickest setting (1 on my Kitchen Aid). Roll again at a setting of 3 or 4 and let the ribbon rest on tapioca-floured parchment paper, covered, until all the wedges are rolled into these ribbons.
For ravioli:Brush egg wash (1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water, beaten together) on the top side of a pasta ribbon. Place 1 tablespoon of your favorite filling (ricotta, parmesan, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg is traditional) on the ribbon, spaced 11⁄2 - 2 inches apart. I don't get more than four on a ribbon, and sometimes only three. Brush egg wash on another noodle ribbon and turn it, wash-side down, onto the noodle with the filling. Seal the ravioli on the outsides and between the filling pockets. Cut the ravioli into squares with a fluted pastry cutter. Repeat this process until all the pasta has become ravioli.
Cook for 8-9 minutes in salted water at a rolling boil. Serve with your favorite, gluten-free pasta sauce and parmesan cheese.
These also freeze well.
Makes 12–15 very large ravioli.
For fettucini:Cut the pasta ribbons in the fettucini attachment. Let the noodles rest for half an hour, uncovered, then cook in boiling water for about 2 minutes, or store in loosely wrapped, floured plastic, sealed, in the refrigerator until using. It will store for a day or two.
If you are hand-rolling and cutting:
Cut the dough into 6 wedges. Roll the dough about 1⁄8-inch thick and cut into noodle-width ribbons. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes or until it is the desired texture. If storing before use, use the same technique as above.
- Flour mix: 3 parts brown rice flour, 2 parts potato starch and 11⁄2 parts tapioca flour. I usually mix a big batch to keep around.
I want to let you all know that there is now a Gluten-Free Discussion Group in Carson City that meets the second Monday of each month. Our next meeting is March 14. Please
• Susan Hart has been cooking gluten-free for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.