I am not a recipe follower. It’s a big part of why I prefer to cook instead of bake. I don’t really like to follow directions, nor do I like to measure things. I’m a little-of-this, a little-of-that kind of cook. Every time I make a dish, it’s a little bit different. Of course, this works for and against me. Cooking is always an adventure, which I love. However, sometimes, my dishes don’t turn out as fantastic as the time before (or what I remember, anyway). One dish I LOVE to experiment with is pasta. Since going gluten free, though, pasta has been more of a challenge.
Shopping at my local Cub Foods, I found GF pasta to be quite expensive compared it’s wheat-based cousin. Being the thrifty shopper that I am, I continued my hunt. Other grocery resources turned up similarly expensive pasta choices. Until, I walked into Trader Joes, where I found a few gluten free pasta options are reasonable prices. Jackpot! My first venture with gf pasta was Trader Joes Corn Pasta. Not bad, if you’re eating it with red sauce, or something else that’s pretty strongly flavored. I wouldn’t eat it as buttered noodles. It’s very heavily corn flavored. Then, I found Trader Joes Brown Rice Pasta. Ah, now we’re talking. If overcooked, the brown rice pasta gets really-really-really soft, so watch out for that. I’ve also heard that Quinoa Pasta is really good, very close to “regular” pasta, but I haven’t tried that yet…. didn’t see it at Trader Joes either.
For this pasta dish, I used corn pasta. I don’t mind the corn flavor when it’s masked behind a good tomato sauce. I started by roasting some kielbasa in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the edges were beginning to brown.
While the kielbasa cooked, I started on the sauce. In a frying pan, I heated up olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion and green pepper. When all the veggies were soft and translucent, I added in 2 cans of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste. Then, I topped the sauce off with dashes of oregano, parsley, basil, and crushed red pepper. I also chopped up some pepperoncini’s and tossed them into the sauce. Simmer. Simmer. Simmer.
Meanwhile, in a pot next door, I boiled up some corn pasta (and a pot of regular pasta because we buy in bulk and Ryan’s still working through the remainder of our pre-Angie-going-gluten-free pasta stash).
Make sure to salt and pepper your sauce, and taste it. I often find that my tomato sauce needs a little extra somethin-somethin to really develop the deep flavor layers… enter my secret ingredient: Sugar. Not just any sugar, mind you, brown sugar. That little kick of sweetness is in many bottle pasta sauces and really amps up the flavor complexity of the sauce. A little goes a long way, here. I would recommend starting with a 1/4 of a tablespoon and working your way up to your desired sweetness. The amount of brown sugar (or regular sugar) that you need will depend on your own personal taste, along with what other ingredients you include in your sauce.
Add the kielbasa into the pasta. As the pasta simmers, the sauce will thicken. If you don’t want very thick sauce, turn the heat off and leave the sauce on the burner to stay warm. If you want really thick sauce, keep on simmering. One other option is to add a little of the pasta water to the sauce. Again, do this in small amounts. I haven’t tried this approach with the brown rice pasta yet, but the corn pasta does have a good amount of stickiness to it, which creates a nice saucy but not watery consistency. In regular pasta, it’s the starch that creates the “sticky” cooking liquid, which acts as a good sauce enhancer, not sure if the sticky factor from corn pasta is starch or not.
Once your pasta is cooked, drain and scoop into shallow bowls, top with your sauce. I also prefer fresh grated Parmesan cheese (sadly we were out of Parmesan), which adds another level to the flavor complexity. A nice, nutty flavor.
You might be wondering what that bread-like thing is in the picture above. Well, its, uhh, bread. More specifically, it’s gluten free focaccia bread. I bout a Chebe mix on GlutenFreely.com. A product review of the mix is to come.