I love a hearty bowl of pasta but about five years ago I started to notice wheat pasta was not sitting well with my digestion. I started evaluating the portion I was eating and small or large I felt the same -bloated and simply blah.
I had a few GI tests done, they came back clear. Determined, I decided to start a food journal. Patterns of bloating, discomfort, and pain started to appear with dairy and glutinous foods. It was time for me to make some changes.
I cut dairy first, this helped reduce a lot of my bloating and coincidently helped clear up a lot of my acne. A few years later, I also cut gluten and refined sugars. All-in-all it took about 5 years to get to where my diet is today, going from really bloated, to sometimes bloated, to now rarely bloated.
Initially, I thought cutting out gluten would be the hardest for me, probably why it took me a few years to make the change. No pasta, no bread? How would I survive? After research and connecting with the health food community, I realized I didn’t have to cut out a lot of the foods I loved (like pasta), and that there were so many healthy gluten free alternatives.
There were gluten free pastas made from brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, chickpea flour and more. I tried at least ten brands and found two or three I really enjoyed. In my trials, I also realized there was a bit of a formula to making a gluten free pasta that didn’t leave me feeling what I call “carb-loaded.” Today I’m excited to share this formal with you! Ready for it? Here we go, eight tips to help you make a healthy glute fee pasta that tastes amazing! And of course, I also share with you a recent go-to pasta dish the Knights residence lives by!
8 Tips to Making Healthy Gluten Free Pasta
1. Use a good quality pasta brand (certified non-GMO / organic).
It’s great that there are so many more brands offering gluten free pasta options then there were five years ago, but don’t be fooled, look for simple ingredient options and ones that are certified organic and/or non-GMO. Also, look for brands that have no added sugars or preservatives.
2. Add lots of herbs.
Herbs have so many health benefits. Did you know oregano is high in antioxidants and may help fight off bacteria and viruses? Herbs like thyme, dill, and parsley also carry great anti-inflammatory properties. I love adding a combination of 2-3 herbs to each pasta dish. Currently, I’m loving the dried oregano and parsley combo.
3. For every cup of cooked pasta, add one cup of vegetables.
I enjoy a balanced gluten free pasta dish. To help reduce the carb overload, my rule of thumb is for every cup of cooked pasta add a cup of a vegetables. Any veggies will do, lightly steamed or sautéed, fold them in with your pasta to boost the nutritional value of your dish. Examples include, diced zucchini, peppers, shredded carrots, steamed broccoli, sugar smap peas, onion, and more.
4. Add in greens.
Adding greens to your pasta dish is a great way to add in extra vitamins and minerals. For example, adding in 1 cup of raw spinach will add 30 mg of calcium, 24 mg of magnesium, 167 mg of potassium, almost 1g of protein and more. Fold your leafy greens in at the end to prevent them from getting too mushy.
5. Use organic strained tomatoes instead of pre-made pasta sauce.
Premade tomato sauces are loaded with sugar, refined ingredients, and preservatives. You don’t need a premade tomato sauce to add flavour to your pasta dish – instead, use a cup of organic strained tomatoes (in a glass container if available) and combine this with your favourite herbs and seasonings.
6. Use a good quality salt.
It obvious, food taste better with salt! With so many salt options out there, it’s important to choose salts that do your body good. My favourite cooking salts are; Himalayan salt (also known as pink salt), sea salt, and mountain salt. Some conventional salts are very refined, loaded with preservatives, and sometimes even bleached! A pure-form salt such as Himalayan salt on the other hand helps stabilize blood pressure, balance pH, and is rich in minerals. To learn more on the topic, here’s a great article from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition on The Best Types of Salt and How to Use Them.
7. Swap the parmigiano for nutritional yeast.
What the heck is nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast. It has a flake like form that’s light yellow in colour. It has a light cheesy aftertaste and has become very popular to use in dairy-free and vegan cooking. It’s commonly sprinkled on top of pasta and salads, or blended with oils and herbs to form a creamy sauce.
Nutritional yeast is a good source of fibre, protein, and B vitamins. It’s easier to digest then cheese yet has a similar flavour. I’ve been using it for many years and love adding it anywhere I used to sprinkle cheese. Here’s a great article from Running on Real Food that shares more about nutrition yeast and ways to use it.
8. Add good quality fats.
With the keto diet taking the world by storm that last few years, by now you’ve most likely familiar with the benefits of good fats and why it’s important to incorporate them into your diet. Not only are good fats like avocado, coconut, and olive oil great for skin, hair, and nails, they’re also super vital for brain and gut health. Now I’m not saying keto is for everyone, nor do I follow a keto diet myself, but I do value the benefits of a diet rich in good fats.
When making pasta I’ve established a personal rule of thumb, that is, for every cup of carbs (pasta) add about one tablespoon of good fat (i.e. olive oil or avocado oil). I find this helps stabilize my blood sugar levels. When eating a heavier carb meal, like a plate of pasta or potatoes, blood sugar levels spike; when combining the carb with a good quality fat, the intake process slows down and blood sugar levels become more balanced.
9. BONUS TIP: Use pasta water instead of butter or flour to make thicken sauce.
We all know the best part about any pasta dish is the sauce – am I right? Most store bought pastas and restaurants use corn starch or wheat flour to add texture and thickness to the sauce. Well friends, there’s a healthier and quicker way to do this at home. While straining your gluten free pasta, save about ¼ cup of the water and add it to your strained tomatoes (see Tip 5). Mix it into the sauce well, let it simmer for a minute or two, add in your cooked and drained pasta, stir, and just like that you’ve got yourself a saucy, restaurant style pasta dish without all the added flours.
And just for fun, here’s my latest go-to gluten free tomato pasta dish recipe to inspire all the pasta lovers out there that may be looking to make their pasta dish a healthier one!
Fay’s Go-To Saucy Tomato Pasta (GF/DF)
- 1 pack quinoa or brown rice pasta I enjoy using GoGoQuinoa Penne
- 1 4- pack organic turkey or pork sausages omit for meatless option
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 bell peppers diced
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 clove garlic pressed optional
- 1 medium zucchinis diced
- 3 handfuls raw spinach
- 1 cup organic strained tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried oregano and parsley
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt more for boiling pasta
- ½ tsp black pepper
- In a large pot add water and bring to a boil. Follow pasta package instructions.
- As water boils, wash and chop all vegetables. Slice sausages if using.
- In a large ceramic pan on medium-high add sliced sausages. Cook for 3 minutes, flip and cook for 3 more minutes. (Skip step is making meatless)
- Add in diced onion, peppers, and pressed garlic. If you are not using a ceramic pan, add in avocado oil. If you are using a ceramic pan, save avocado oil until the end.
- Bring pan heat down to medium. Sautte for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in zucchini and spinach. Sauttee for another 2 minutes (until spinach shrinks).
- Pour strained tomato sauce on top. Add herbs, salt, and pepper. Pasta should be ready at this point.
- While tomato sauce comes to a simmer, strain pasta. Save ¼ cup of the pasta water – pour it into the sauce mix. Combine gently.
- Turn off pan heat. Add cooked pasta to pan mixture. Drizzle with avocado oil. Fold all ingredients together. Plate, sprinkle with nutritional yeast, and enjoy!
Note: First time trying gluten free pasta? In my opinion, it takes a few tries before finding a kind you enjoy. Don’t get discourage if your first try isn’t exactly what you expected, each brand uses different blends so give yourself time to find one you’ll like. I’ve found quinoa based pastas to be one of my favourites.
Do you have healthy gluten free pasta making tips? Have a gluten free pasta brand you’d recommend? Share with me in the comment section below or on social media.