In episode 11 we learn how to make perfectly cooked gluten-free pasta salad that isn’t mushy! Discover 5 easy tips for a pasta salad that replicates traditional recipes, including which noodles the best, how to cook and serve it for optimal results! Join Melissa as she shares many pro tips, the best ingredients and methods for success. This audio recipe for gluten-free pasta salad will help you tackle GF cooking with flawless results every time.
Recipes and Resources Mentioned
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Hello all. I’m Melissa Erdelac, host of the Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge podcast and creator behind the gluten-free website, Mamagourmand. Here we take beloved recipes you thought you’d never enjoy again and transform them into easy copycat versions, just as good as the originals.
So we are about to kick off summer, which means it’s game time for some summer cookouts. The invitations are going to be flowing. There’s gonna be lots of barbecues, and you’re gonna be asked to bring a dish to share. So what’s the top choice for a crowd pleasing favorite that serves plenty, and you can make ahead? Pasta salad.
Today we’re gonna talk about how you can turn that old school favorite recipe into a gluten-free dish to serve everyone. There’s a couple easy tricks you can use to adapt any pasta salad recipe. So if you had a favorite that your mom used to make, or something that you see online or in a magazine, or you can use the Italian sun dried tomato recipe I have on the site.
But any of these recipes you can turn into a gluten-free dish that people won’t even know it’s gluten-free because of some easy tricks I’m gonna share with you.
So first of all, you may be thinking, girl, why are you over complicating this? Just swap out the noodles for some GF pasta and call a day. To which I say, girl, I don’t enjoy eating some mushy- ass pasta. So gimme five minutes and hear me out.
The starches in gluten-free pasta aren’t the same as wheat flour pasta. That means they don’t hold up quite the same and they have a different texture. When you’re cooking pasta ahead of time, which you have to do for pasta salad, and you have to hold it for a while, usually pasta salads, you have to refrigerate for at least a few hours before you can serve it. It can break down easily and have an unpleasant bite when it’s cold.
I’m going to teach you how to avoid that. How? First of all, the brand’s important. My favorite gluten-free pasta brand is Barilla. Another common one you could find at the grocery stores is Rozoni, which tastes okay, but I find the texture to be way more delicate and break down easy. Barilla seems to have a heartier texture of all the gluten-free pastas. And for pasta salad you can use, they have rotini or they have penne or macaroni noodles.
Okay, next. When you’re cooking the pasta usually with regular pasta, you salt the water and you actually salt it pretty heavily. When I’m cooking gluten-free pasta, I leave my water unsalted, and that is because I find that gluten-free pasta really absorbs that salt. And actually it absorbs it too much, so it becomes overly salty, and especially if you’re adding more salt to the dish with sauces or pasta salad dressings, it’s going to be over seasoned and there’s nothing you could do about it at that point. So leave the water unsalted, and then you could add the seasoning after.
Next, when you’re cooking the pasta, you wanna cook it to just al dente. That means it just becomes tender enough. Usually on the package, it’ll say how long to cook from al dente. It’ll say from like 9 to 11 minutes. Cook it to nine minutes. Don’t go to the farther range. Just cook it to its just al dente.
And part of what makes a good pasta salad is when the noodles remain firm and you don’t want it to break apart when you are stirring it and incorporating all the ingredients.
You don’t want ’em undercooked, you want ’em just tender enough. Once you’ve reached that part, drain your pasta and then rinse it with cold water. This stops the cooking. If you drain the pasta and you just let it sit in the colander, all the steam is going to continue to cook the pasta. You want the pasta to stop cooking. So just give it a quick rinse and toss it with cold water.
Okay, so next, now you’re ready to make your pasta salad. Just go ahead and make it according to the recipe, stir and all the mix-ins with the pasta. And then combine your dressing, pour it over, and at this point, every recipe tells you to refrigerate it, and this just gives time for all the flavors to incorporate in the pasta and to saturate the ingredients and just make it taste better. So you do want to chill your pasta salad.
For gluten-free pasta salad, I wouldn’t recommend making it more than a day ahead of time. Traditional pasta salads, you could usually make a couple days ahead of time, but for gluten-free, I wouldn’t recommend more than 24 hours.
And now here is the important part. When you are going to serve your pasta salad, you want it to come to room temperature before you serve it. This is kind of the same thing with gluten-free breads. If you serve the breads cold, the texture is going to be more crumbly. With pasta salad, if you serve it cold, the pasta’s going to taste a little too firm and have too much of a bite to it, so you want it to come to room temperature first.
I recommend at least 30 minutes to 45 minutes and just kind of give it a gentle stir every 15 minutes or so. And if you do that, then your pasta will not be mushy, but it’ll be still soft and it’ll replicate that normal wheat flour pasta. So when you serve it, no one will know it’s gluten free.
For my recipe in particular to the pasta, I add chickpeas, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and red onion, and then you could even throw in some chopped salami and olives just because all of those are my favorite things.
And then there’s a sun dried tomato dressing that covers it all, and it’s pretty amazing. I’ll link to that recipe, but like I said earlier, if you have any pasta salad recipe and just wanna sub out the gluten-free pasta, I would use the tips that I just mentioned to transform it. No one will be the wiser.
Okay, so that’s all for this episode. Remember, you could always find the full printable recipe that I mentioned for the gluten-free pasta salad on the show notes page. To get to it click on the link provided in whatever app you’re listening on right now, or go to my recipe website, mamagourmand.com and click on the podcast tab. And the show notes will include the full recipe along with the transcript and the tips that I’ve mentioned.