See that pasta there? It’s gluten-free.
You wouldn’t guess from the look of it, the way the individual strands stay slightly separated from each other, not clumping together like frightened seventh-grade girls along the walls of the gym at a school dance. It’s robust pasta, full of flavor and a real bite. It’s not gummy or spongy, not falling apart at the first touch or too tough to chew for longer than a moment.
This is pasta.
There are several good gluten-free pastas on the market. Danny and I have been cooking and eating them for years. This, however, is by far the best gluten-free pasta we’ve ever shared.
No one can detect that it’s a gluten-free pasta. It’s not speciality pasta or special-diet pasta. It’s good Italian pasta.
This is Jovial gluten-free pasta.
As you may know, we work with sponsors on our site instead of running ads from an ad network. We made this decision over a year ago, after much deliberation and worrying about money. In the end, Danny and I both decided that we wanted to work with companies whose food and work practices we love. This means that we turn down at least three times as many companies as we accept. This means that all those photos you see on the right-side of our website lead you to companies whose gluten-free foods we use in this house, food we believe is delicious and good for us. Food we think you will like too.
We are truly thrilled to announce that Jovial pasta is our latest sponsor.
Jovial gluten-free pasta is organic, whole grain (made only of brown rice flour and water), and made in a dedicated gluten-free facility in Tuscany.
It’s also the best gluten-free pasta I’ve ever tasted.
Do you need to know more about why we’re happy to be working with this company?
Well, here’s more. As always, we like to share the words of the people who create the foods and companies with whom we choose to work. These are some thoughts from Carla Bartolucci, one of the founders of Jovial.
(For those of you reading who can eat gluten, Jovial also makes pasta made from einkorn, an ancient form of wheat. This pasta is produced in an entirely separate facility from the gluten-free pasta.)
Why did you start the jovial pasta line?
I started the jovial pasta line because I knew we could make a great product and that… it would be what I wanted for myself– 100% organic, whole grain, no starches, no corn and absolutely no mono– and diglycerides. We wanted just one wholesome ingredient, grown and milled by people we knew and trusted and manufactured with the best — not the most modern — techniques. We wanted to use bronze not Teflon dies to shape the pasta because the surface of the pasta is coarser and can absorb more sauce, despite them being harder and slower to work with. We also knew we would dry our pasta very slowly at low temperatures for the best flavor. I was once told in Italy “It is not worth making a product unless it tastes great because even if something is healthy, in the end, people won’t eat it for very long unless it’s good too.”
We are very proud of our product and when we hear it brings pleasure to someone who can taste the difference, this is something we are proud of.
Why does gluten-free pasta matter to you?
I grew up in a family of incredible cooks and our house was always the place where everyone wanted to be because of the amazing food. I remember seeing a boy from my neighborhood years later who said he literally could not control his excitement on his way over to play with my brothers, because he always found my mother offering something delicious on the kitchen table.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer, I was just sixteen and a few days after, I remember my lip swelling up after dinner. That is when my own food intolerances started. My life from that time forward for many years was marked with more battles against cancer and unexpected tragedies. During these years, my health worsened and I went from getting a sense of joy and love from food to feeling that finding the right food was an incredible burden. Along the way, my husband and I had children and for my oldest daughter, eliminating wheat was the key to her well-being, even though she is not celiac.
Everyone deserves to eat well and to feel great without feeling overwhelmed.
What is the factory like in Lucca? Paint us a picture.
The pasta factory is a short drive away from the city of Lucca, in a mountainous area that is very different than how you would imagine the typical Tuscan landscape. The water used to make the pasta comes from a mountain spring and they say is one of the many key elements to making superior pasta. The street is lined with Mediterranean pine trees because the coast is not far away. The factory is absolutely a family affair! There are siblings, cousins, uncles and fathers always present, even on Saturday and Sunday. They literally work all the time because they love what they do. Their commitment is timeless, having passed down the traditional knowledge of artisan pasta production for over a century.
Over thirty years ago, a doctor asked them to develop low protein pasta for people with kidney disease. Low protein essentially means no gluten since gluten is protein. This step into the unknown is typical of Italian ingenuity, especially for a very traditional pasta factory. This segment of their production grew rapidly and many years back, they were able to construct a dedicated facility for gluten free pasta production. All of these years of hands-on experience and a constant desire to increase quality are what makes our product so unique.
What are some of your favorite pasta dishes?
I am allergic to tomatoes, believe it or not, so I do not eat typical tomato sauce. The cooking I have learned in Italy from the older generation is usually quick, so first you start boiling the water and your sauce is done before you drain the pasta. I learned to use a bit of the starchy cooking water to thicken sauces, especially if the recipe is without tomatoes. I have unusual favorites because I love bitter vegetables, like broccoli rabe, artichokes and greens. I love pasta with thinly sliced artichokes, sautéed with olive oil, garlic, parsley and a splash of white wine. I also love pasta and beans, soaking and cooking heirloom beans and making simple sauces with herbs like sage or rosemary and greens. I often chop and whisk fresh herbs, like chives, parsley, cilantro, dill or basil with olive oil and drizzle over the sauce after it has cooled, but before mixing with the pasta.
What would you like people to know about your company?
Our company is family-owned and my family and our employees are incredibly dedicated to our mission. I come from a very modest background and feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to supply organic foods to consumers each day. In return, when my husband and I develop a product, we do exhaustive research about every aspect of farming, production and packaging, so we can feel we are making a product with integrity. We respect the fact the food starts from a seed and we are actively involved in organic farming too. We are working each day on new products and are very excited about the future of jovial.®
We hope you can read Carla’s dedication to great gluten-free pasta in her words. This is one of the reasons we wanted to work with her company.
Also, the pasta is fantastic.
To announce the release of Jovial pasta into the world, the good folks there are having a contest.
Would you like to go to Tuscany in May?
To a villa outside of Lucca for a week?
And cook with me and Danny?
(I’m still sort of pinching myself at this.)
There are two ways to win.
Click on this link to the Jovial website and fill out your name in the form there. Hit submit and you’ll be entered into the contest!
Or, you can like Jovial Foods on Facebook and write about your favorite food memory. Write one by November 15th and you could win a week in Tuscany.
(Please visit this page for all the details on the Italian getaway.)
As you can imagine, Danny and I are thrilled to bits that we will be returning to Italy, this time with Lucy. However, I want to make this clear: we didn’t agree to the sponsorship with Jovial on this site because they are flying us to Italy to teach cooking classes in an 18th-century villa. That part’s pretty darned great.
We are proud to work with Jovial because we share the same ideals about food and working in the world.
Also, this is tremendous pasta.
We think you’ll agree.
ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE
There are a few tricks to cooking great gluten-free pasta.
1) Choose a good pasta, like Jovial.
2) Cook the pasta until it is just shy of al dente. (The cooking time specified on many packages of gluten-free pasta seem terribly far from the mark for us. Go by your senses instead of the timer.
3) When the pasta is done, immediately drain it and run cold water over the pasta. This stops the cooking, thus avoiding the mushy mess that gluten-free pasta can be.
4) Drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta and let it sit until your sauce is ready.
Roasted tomatoes have a deeper flavor than raw tomatoes. Now that we’re coming into the end of tomato season here, we aren’t going to have the luxury of truly transcendent tastes soon. Roasting just-okay tomatoes makes them sugary-sweet and full of tomato taste.
This sauce is a basic template, the backbone of what could be something even more stunning in your kitchen. Play with shallots along with the garlic, a bit of sherry vinegar for even more flavor, maybe some ginger for a slightly unexpected taste. Play.
10 plum tomatoes, sliced in half
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves peeled, sliced garlic
3 sprigs fresh chopped basil
Preheat the oven to 500°.
In a large bowl, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the tomato halves. Toss to coat. Line up the tomato halves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Put the baking sheet in the oven.
After 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet out of the oven. Turn the oven down to 350°. When the tomatoes are cool to the touch, remove the skins. Put the tomatoes back in the oven and roast until they are slightly withered and starting to ooze their juices, about 45 minutes. Set aside the tomatoes.
In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cook the garlic, stirring frequently, until it softened, about 3 minutes. (Be careful to not burn the garlic. That will ruin the taste of this sauce.) Add the basil and cook until it releases its fragrance, about 1 minute.
Add the roasted tomatoes to the saucepan and cook until they start to fall apart, softly. Don’t be afraid to push them around in the pan.
Pour ¾ of the sauce into a blender, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the sauce is smooth, pour it into the rest of the sauce and stir.
Add the cooked pasta into the warm sauce and combine it all with tongs until you have luscious pasta.