Times Colonist - - Front Page - ERIC AKIS

Afew read­ers have been ask­ing me for a creamy pasta recipe with two caveats. Due to di­etary con­cerns, it had to be free of gluten and dairy. Ob­tain­ing pasta to cre­ate such a dish would not be a prob­lem. Ev­ery gro­cery store these days sells gluten-free pasta made from gluten-free flour, such as rice, quinoa or corn flour.

Mak­ing a sauce for that pasta that looked and tasted creamy with­out us­ing dairy prod­ucts would be tricky, though. For ex­am­ple, it would ob­vi­ously ex­clude me from us­ing the whip­ping cream and Ital­ian-style cheeses I nor­mally use when mak­ing pasta with al­fredo sauce. I also could not use whole milk, thick­ened with a roux (flour and but­ter), as I would when mak­ing white sauce for mac­a­roni and cheese.

I de­cided the place to start cre­at­ing a creamy-style sauce for pasta that was dairy and gluten­free was to first choose a suit­able liq­uid to an­chor it. Af­ter con­sid­er­ing prod­ucts such as soy bev­er­ages and al­mond bev­er­ages, I opted to use a co­conut bev­er­age. Co­conut bev­er­age is more vis­cous than those prod­ucts and has a creamy, cow’s milk-like white colour. And, un­like prod­ucts such as canned co­conut milk, and co­conut wa­ter, it has quite a sub­tle co­conut taste, which made it a fairly neu­tral base for my pasta sauce.

I lightly thick­ened that co­conut bev­er­age with some gluten-free corn­starch, which gave it a cream-like con­sis­tency. I also flavoured it, Ital­ian-style, with gar­lic, ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, red pep­per flakes, oregano and basil.

For a cheesy taste with­out adding cheese, I stirred in some nutri­tional yeast flakes, a yel­lowy prod­uct made from yeast grown on mo­lasses. The yeast is then re­moved from the mo­lasses, heated and dried, which de­ac­ti­vates the yeast, giv­ing it no froth­ing or leav­en­ing abil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to one pro­ducer, Bob’s Red Mill, nutri­tional yeast is a good source of B vi­ta­mins. More im­por­tantly, when it came to my recipe, it also has a nat­u­rally cheesy, nutty fla­vor, mak­ing it ideal for sprin­kling on, or mix­ing into, savoury foods, such as pop­corn, pizza and pasta.

You’ll find nutri­tional yeast for sale in bags, small con­tain­ers and in bulk at health-food stores, many su­per­mar­kets and at bulk-food stores. When pur­chas­ing, just dou­ble check that it does not also con­tain whey, which some mak­ers add to this prod­uct.

I was pleased with my creamy-style sauce. When I tossed in some gluten-free lin­guini, I found it to be as ap­peal­ing as pas­tas I’ve made with whip­ping cream and cheese. Well, al­most as good — I do love dairy prod­ucts!

For added colour, taste and in­ter­est, I also added some snap peas and crispy bits of gluten­free, ba­con-style salmon to my pasta. The lat­ter is a flavour­ful, smoky/sweet, not overly fishy tast­ing, award-win­ning prod­uct made from wild salmon that’s formed into strips. It’s made by a B.C. com­pany called Sim­ply West Coast. For lo­ca­tions sell­ing it, go to sim­ply­west­coast.com.

Creamy-style Gluten-Free Lin­guini with Snap Peas and Ba­con-style Salmon

The sauce for the lin­guini has a rich al­fredo sauce-like taste, mi­nus the cream and cheese nor­mally used to make it. Make a nice din­ner by serv­ing the pasta with a sim­ple green salad topped with a se­lec­tion of raw veg­eta­bles. Prepa­ra­tion: 20 min­utes Cook­ing time: About 20 min­utes Makes: Three to four serv­ings 1 (340 gram) box gluten-free lin­guini (see Note 1) 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil (di­vided) 4 to 6 strips ba­con-style salmon, cut into small cubes (see Note 2) 2 cups un­sweet­ened co­conut bev­er­age (see Note 3) 2 Tbsp gluten-free corn­starch 1 to 2 large gar­lic cloves, minced 1/2 tsp dried oregano • pinch red pep­per flakes 1/4 cup nutri­tional yeast flakes, plus some for sprin­kling 32 to 40 snap peas, blanched (see Note 4) • salt and freshly ground black pep­per, to taste 1/4 chopped fresh basil or Ital­ian pars­ley Bring six litres of lightly salted wa­ter to a boil in a large pot.

While it comes to tem­per­a­ture, heat 2 tsp of the oil in a skil­let set over medium, to medium-high heat. Add the ba­con-style salmon and cook un­til crispy, about three min­utes. Drain the ba­con-style salmon on pa­per towel and set aside for now.

When the wa­ter is boil­ing, add the pasta, re­turn to a boil, and cook un­til just ten­der, about nine min­utes. Stir the pasta oc­ca­sion­ally dur­ing cook­ing to en­sure each piece sep­a­rates from each other.

While the pasta cooks, place the re­main­ing 2 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch-wide skil­let or shal­low pot set over medium heat. As the oil heats up, place the co­conut bev­er­age and corn­starch in a bowl and whisk to com­bine.

When the oil is hot, add the gar­lic, oregano and pep­per flakes and cook un­til fra­grant, about 60 sec­onds.

Add co­conut bev­er­age mix­ture to the skil­let, bring to a sim­mer and sim­mer un­til mix­ture lightly thick­ens, about one minute. Add the 1/4 cup nutri­tional yeast flakes and whisk to dis­solve them into the sauce. Add the ba­con-style salmon and snap peas. Sea­son the sauce with salt and pep­per and then re­serve on low heat.

When the pasta is cooked, re­serve 1/3 cup of its cook­ing liq­uid, then drain the pasta well. Add the pasta to the sauce with the basil (or pars­ley), toss to com­bine and let it cook 30 sec­onds more. Thin the pasta with some of the re­served pasta wa­ter, if you find that it’s not saucy enough.

Di­vide the pasta be­tween bowls. Serve pasta with ad­di­tional nutri­tional yeast flakes, for sprin­kling on at the ta­ble. Note 1: I used Catelli brand gluten-free lin­guini when test­ing this recipe. Note 2: Strips of Sim­ply West Coast ba­con-style salmon are sold frozen. Thaw be­fore us­ing. I bought it at Thrifty Foods. Note 3: Co­conut milk bev­er­age is sold at most su­per­mar­kets in the aisle where other bev­er­ages, such as soy and al­mond, are sold. Don’t con­fuse it with thicker canned co­conut milk or thin­ner canned co­conut wa­ter. Note 4: To blanch snap peas, plunge into boil­ing wa­ter for one minute. Lift out of the wa­ter, cool in cold wa­ter, and then drain well. You can blanch the peas in the boil­ing pasta wa­ter be­fore cook­ing the lin­guini in it. Eric’s op­tions: For a sim­pler, al­fredo-style lin­guini, omit the snap peas and ba­con-style salmon from this recipe. Or re­place those in­gre­di­ents with oth­ers that ap­peal more, such as frozen peas, blanched small broc­coli flo­rets, small shrimp, crab meat, small cubes of cooked chicken, reg­u­lar bits of crisply cooked ba­con or any other item you think will work here.

Eric Akis is the au­thor of eight cook­books. His col­umns ap­pear in the Life sec­tion Wed­nes­day and Sun­day.

This creamy-style, gluten-free pasta dish is rich and flavour­ful, de­spite con­tain­ing no dairy prod­ucts. Nutri­tional yeast flakes give the pasta sauce a cheese-like taste.

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