How to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

How to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta

how to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta | pamela salzman

I was chatting with a few ladies in my class the other day about cooking for their gluten-free children.  Whereas it is certainly easier to find gluten-free alternatives today than it was 10 years ago, apparently cooking gluten-free pasta is still tricky for many people.  So I promised them that I would write a post ASAP.  Voila!

save the pasta water

As you know, I am not gluten-free and neither is my husband nor my kids.  BUT, because gluten is a pro-inflammatory protein (found in many grains like wheat) and usually in a lot of processed food,  I do limit our gluten to no more than one serving a day.  I also think it’s important to have as much variety in our diet as possible to expose yourself to the benefits of many different foods, so that’s another reason I try to mix it up a little in the pasta department and work some gluten-free options into our meals.

the secret to perfectly cooked gluten-free pasta | pamela salzman

I grew up eating a lot of pasta.  My father is from Italy and my mother is Italian-American.  So I know how to cook traditional durum wheat pasta with my eyes closed.  But gluten-free pasta is not the same.  It can be starchy, sticky, clumpy and lose it’s shape if you cook it the same way as regular wheat pasta.  So I wanted to share my technique that I have used successfully for many years.  Keep in mind that different brands and especially different flour blends will take different amounts of time, but the technique is the same.  Here goes:

Boil plenty of water.

Add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. (This is to flavor the pasta.  No need to waste expensive sea salt here.)

Add pasta and stir often. (This is so that the pasta doesn’t stick to each other.)  You do not need to add oil to any pasta, gluten-free or otherwise.

When you add the pasta, set your timer for the least amount of time that the package directions indicate.  For example, with Trader Joe’s Brown Rice and Quinoa spaghetti, it says to cook for 7-10 minutes.  I set my timer for 7 minutes.

Lower the heat so that the water simmers, and is not raging boiling.  This is important.  Rapid boiling is what causes the pasta to lose its shape.

MOST IMPORTANT STEP:  When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the pasta remain in the hot water.  Taste the pasta.  It should still be a little hard.  Scoop out a little pasta water and reserve.

Allow the pasta to sit in the hot water with the heat off until you have your desired tenderness, which means you may need to test it every 30 seconds.

Drain and immediately toss with your sauce, pesto or whatever.  DO NOT RINSE PASTA, unless you want to use it in a cold dish.  The starches on the outside of the pasta will help sauces, etc. stick.  Use the reserved pasta water to add extra moisture to the pasta as needed.  Keep in mind, gluten-free pasta does not sit as well as regular pasta, so try to serve immediately or at the least, keep that reserved pasta water on hand in case.

My last post on Friday highlighted my favorite GF pasta of the moment, Trader Joe’s Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice pasta.  There are others I like too.  I wrote a post on my favorites a few years ago here which included brands like Tinkyada and Bionaturae.

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  1. Hi.
    I’ve used this method 3 times. The first time my spaghetti came out amazing. The second and third time, they would NOT soften up. Hard and really nasty to eat.


    • what kind of spaghetti was it? I would read the label and see how long the manufacturer recommends as the cooking time. Boil and cook as normal and then about 3 minutes before the end of the recommended cook time, turn off the heat. Taste the pasta every minute until it’s the perfect tenderness.

      • The same Trader joe’s spaghetti you used.

      • That is not the directions you gave initially.

        • Sorry for the confusion. Same directions as in the text of the blog post! If the time recommended is 7-10 minutes, boil for 7 minutes, turn off the heat and test the pasta every minute until it’s the desired tenderness. Have you deviated from this in any way? You still have to stir the pasta when you put it in the boiling water. Let me know how long you set your timer for and if you perhaps added the pasta and didn’t stir. Thanks.

          • Lol.
            I figured out what I did differently from when I first attempted the recipe and had awesome results to when I tried it two more times and had it failed.
            I lowered the heat completely to LOW and that is when it failed as I read the directions incorrectly the second time.
            I made the pasta last night and I lowered it to medium and it worked wonders. Thanks for the responses and advice!

            • Ah! Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Have been trying to make gluten pasta for my son and not very successfully, so I love this post!

    • Oh, good! I hope you have success with this method. 🙂

  3. I strongly urge you to try an Italian gluten free pasta made with mais, grano turco (in Italian). It is the best I have found, the name is LE VENEZIANE. I have been eating gluten free for over 30 years because I am celiac and this is by far the best.

    • I am very excited to try it!! Thank you, Sal. I’m sure I can find it online, but I am curious where you buy it. Thank you!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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