When is a bowl of pasta not a bowl of pasta? When it’s gluten free!

When is a bowl of pasta not a bowl of pasta? When it’s gluten free!

gluten free pasta

I don’t usually succumb to demands from my wife about what dishes to post on the blog. I like to keep to my theme. Blogs are basically about sharing information and new ideas to everyone though, so since we’ve made a breakthrough it deserves to be posted. For those people who don’t have gluten problems feel free to follow the ragu recipe below. I’ve added a few tips that I do to make a knockout ragu.

Onto the gluten free world then. This world is slowly evolving, but it still has a long way to go. Most gluten free substitutes are made with a combination of rice, potato, tapioca flours. They do not stick together even when you add water, so a magic gum called xanthan is added to make a glue. This can then be cooked. The result looks excellent but the texture is always wrong. Breads taste very grainy and are generally unpleasant. We have found some amazing breads though. Le Pain Quotidien are leading the way. I can’t praise this place highly enough. If you pass upon one, they are well worth a visit. The same story goes for the gluten free pastas. Made of similar compounds that are just nasty. So much so my wife who lived on pasta and sauce when I’m not home hasn’t eaten any for months.

A few weeks back we stumbled across some polenta couscous, it was better than the real thing. Thankfully while in London this week we stumbled across and amazing grocer called Andreas. One of the most amazing foodie shops I’ve ever come across. I might go back to London just to get some goodies in. High up on the shelve we saw some boring pasta that looked a little out of place. On closer inspection we found it was gluten free and made out of maize (polenta). Like the couscous it was possibly better than the real thing as it had better texture and flavour. This particular brand is GaroFalo, they can be found widely.


Now onto the ragu. Some simple rules to follow and you won’t go wrong.

1) Get your meat from a butcher rather than supermarket if possible. It’s just got a better texture.

2) Don’t add things that will dilute the flavours, ie chopped tomatoes, loads of veg. They’re fine in small amounts but the meat should be 50% of the entire ingredients.

3) Cook in the oven for two hours. Trust me. Thirty minutes on the hob will work but the best results are low and slow.

4) Add some bold flavours. I often add chorizo for it’s smokiness. Today I added an Nduja paste, essentially spreadable salami. It adds a wonderful layer of flavour to the sauce.




  • 600g Minced Meat
  • 2 Finely chopped Shallot
  • 2 Cubed Carrots
  • 1 Tbsp Nduja
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 150ml Port
  • 500ml Beef Stock
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 4 Sprigs Thyme
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 75g/person Pasta


  1. Brown all of the meat first and set aside. Soften the shallots and garlic. Turn the heat up and add the port. Reduce by half.
  2. Add the meat back plus the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and place in an Oven at 120°c FAN, lid on for two hours.
  3. Boil pasta as per packet instructions in salted water. Drain, then add the pasta to the sauce and turn through so the ragu gets into the holes.
Serve with parmesan if you want.


  1. Hi fdathome
    If this tastes anything as good as it looks, I don’t think I will eat anything else ever again! This is one for your tentative cook followers to try. I hope I can get my hands on this nduja paste. I love how you find these secret ingredients that elevate a dish. I still use my fennel pollen every time I cook fish that you recommended.

  2. I haven’t tried the gluten free dried pasta before but your akolades are good enough for me. I will mention this brand to my friend to frequents Europe on business, thank you. I am about to do some cook time testing for some GF prepared pastas called GK Skinny Pasta, they are EXCELLENT, and I’m not just saying that because they are a client (I probably wouldn’t say anything if they weren’t good). My favourites are Roasted Veg Lasagna and Three Cheese Ravioli. The texture is very good.
    Your ragu looks and sounds wonderful, I bet the aroma was intoxicating! I like ragus on pappardelle but I can see why you chose the penne noodles. Definitely a lovely dish and I suspect leftovers would be amazing as well.

    • Dave Crichton

      Oh thanks for this, Eva. I’ll look out for them. I guess they’re not in the UK though yet. It’s good to see a lot of work being done on the subject too.

  3. We’re not gluten sensitive in our family, but just for fun I’ve always used pastas made with different grains over the many years. It’s just nice to mix it up, I think, and yes, some are better than others. But I do love that most of the non-wheat varieties are whole grain, instead of the processed wheat pasta, which makes them more enticing in my book. Lovely ragu!!!

    • Dave Crichton

      Hi Mimi, what pastas can you get made from other grains? Sadly anything made from rye/barley all ends up in the gluten camp too sadly.

  4. The pasta sounds really good but that ragu is calling my name. It looks absolutely delicious and I agree with you on the slow and in the oven.

  5. It is nice that you have been able to find a couple of products that will work…I sure it makes life a lot easier food wise. Your ragu looks great and thanks for your tips. BTW, your posts aren’t reaching my reader lately.

    • Dave Crichton

      Thanks Karen, I’ve found I’m not receiving some people’s posts either. They go into my junk box. I’ll ask my tech people if they know what’s going on.

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