I’m an Italian.
No, I don’t possess swarthy skin, I don’t speak Dante’s language, and I don’t think I’ll ever visit my father’s homeland, but I do love pasta.
In fact, my favorite dinner after a long day at work used to comprise angel hair pasta, a touch of olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese—all devoured directly from the pot during one of my many beloved, addicting television shows.
I haven’t enjoyed that meal, however, since I started my gluten-free diet. No acceptable pasta seems able to hide its nonwheat identity with the scant dressings of my favorite at-home conconction.
Nevertheless, with a few cloves of garlic, a generous portion of tomato sauce, a heap of parmesan cheese, and a sprig of basil, some delicious replacements have emerged. So here are my selections for the three best gluten-free dried pastas.
1. Mrs. Leeper’s rice spaghetti: I took a risk on this spaghetti a few weeks ago when I was rushing through my local grocery store and searching for an easy date-night dinner. “I’m not sure if this pasta is going to be any good,” I warned my boyfriend. After all, its corn-based rotelli relative, never again purchased after disappointing me on my first foray into gluten-free nearly two years ago, had hardly recommended this spaghetti.
But the ultra-slender stalks beneath the clear packaging beckoned to me. And although they, like all gluten-free varieties, required the accompaniment of a hearty tomato sauce (I’ve recently been partial to Prego) and parmesan cheese, these noodles, the thinnest of any gluten-free pasta in my experience, proved deliciously close to real angel hair.
2. Trader Joe’s organic brown rice spaghetti: I shouldn’t have been surprised to find these packages, marked with that familiar little g, in the pasta aisle at the gluten-free friendly Trader Joe’s. But, a creature of habit, I’d already picked my go-to gluten-free pasta, and I’d never even considered the existence of other brands. In fact, such shopping around seemed equivalent to cheating!
How ironic, then, that a spur-of-the-moment fling led me to such a stable, dependable, matter-of-fact specimen. This unremarkableness is actually an incredibly desirable trait in a gluten-free pasta. Not too sticky, not too slimy, not too soft, not too hard, not too tasteful, not too tasteless—this pasta was simply, normally, wonderfully pasta.
3. Tinkyada brown rice lasagna noodles and brown rice spirals: I may have new lovers, but I still want to be friends with this, until recently, undisputed favorite. These spirals dazzled in several date-night preparations of a beloved baked pasta dish including sauce, black olive slices, and parmesan, topped with melted mozzarella cheese. And even recently, these lasagna noodles slipped beautifully into place in both my traditional layered dish and the delectable new spirals. In fact, the depth in the rice flavor may have even improved my old wheat-noodle lasagna recipe.
But this staple also disappointed: the undercooked elbows once rendered my attempt at a macaroni salad inedible, and the thick, gummy spirals sometimes naggingly reminded me of my diet limitations. So I imposed some of my own limits on this mostly dependable brand.
And in these classifications and evaluations and, finally, revelations, I’ve rediscovered the joy of eating—and being—Italian.