Shortly after Christmas 2009, I was diagnosed as having “a definite gluten sensitivity.” While not Celiac Disease proper, the treatment was the same: Avoid gluten.
Gluten is found in any grain or product containing wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and a wide variety of other grains. Cross-contamination is also an issue, as many non-gluten containing grains are processed with ones that contain gluten – e.g. oats are naturally gluten-free, however since they are often processed with wheat, they are always contaminated unless you are certain to buy certified gluten-free oats.
Now, you might think that making a mac and cheese blog might be difficult since pasta is generally wheat-based. Well, that may have been true in the days before awareness about Celiac Disease and gluten-free diets was widespread, but these days it is actually pretty easy to find gluten-free pastas in a megamart or health food store. There are a variety of gluten-free pastas, but here are the ones I use:
Quinoa: This has lately been touted as a wonder-grain because of its high nutritional content paired with its reported simplicity to farm. In my opinion there is no taste or texture difference compared to traditional pasta. On the downside, I find this type a little bit harder to find, at least in my neck of the woods.
Corn: This comes at a very close second for me, though my husband says that he prefers it to the quinoa pastas. Although there are no taste/texture differences in my opinion, sometimes when boiling this pasta a sort of “scum” rises to the surface of the water. This is normal, albeit somewhat disturbing the first few times making it. The only other major difference is that it is almost always a bright marigold yellow color; to me this is no biggie, but if this is not aesthetically pleasing to you, well, pick another pasta.
Rice: In my area, this is the easiest and often the cheapest gluten-free pasta to locate. The taste is the same, however the texture can vary: When freshly boiled, the texture is the same if cooked properly, however it generally does not hold up terribly well to being reheated in the microwave, often becoming softer. Also, this type of gluten-free pasta is the one most vulnerable to overcooking; whilst quinoa and corn pastas can tolerate being boiled past the al dente stage, if rice pasta is cooked too long it easily becomes mushy. As a result, one needs to keep alert when the pasta is boiling. Constant vigilance!
One last note: There are many who maintain that when going gluten-free, one must also go dairy-free. When I first got diagnosed, I went dairy-free for six months – and let me tell you, that was the most miserable six months of my culinary life. As one can clearly tell from the very existence of this blog, I no longer adhere to a dairy-free diet. Would I be healthier if I was to cut that out again? Perhaps. But I know for a fact I’m a whole lot happier and saner with dairy in my diet.