|photo by L. Gatto-White|
Many people have special dietary requirements arising from various reasons like health issues, environmental concerns, ethical beliefs and religious practices. An entire family can all have special dietary needs, but all for different reasons. One member may be lactose intolerant, another may not be able to digest gluten, and yet another may be a vegetarian. So, what’s a family cook to do?
Well, there are a growing number of helpful cookbooks devoted to these dietary requirements, but what is even more useful is a repertoire of dishes that will meet a spectrum of needs while satisfying all palates.
Pastas, risottos, polentas and stir-fries are great vehicles with which to start building such a repertoire as they can be gluten-free, yet taste great and be nutritious; they can be lactose-free, wholly vegetarian, low in fat and sodium while incorporating seasonal vegetables, herbs, and legumes. These dishes are also economical, and often require only two pots with which to make the entire meal. So, for all these reasons I offer you the simple, delicious dish Pasta Toscana, and the substitutions you can use to meet specific dietary needs. I hope you keep it in your culinary repertoire for all your special reasons, and love it just because it tastes great. Buon Appetito!
Ingredients: most of these ingredients are available in an organic form
- 500g. of imported or gluten-free linguine or spaghetti, oriental rice noodles can also be used
- 1 ¼ cups dried white kidney beans soaked and simmered until soft (use 1 canned beans if sodium isn’t a problem, but drain and rinse well)
- 1 medium bunch of kale; a lutein- rich leafy green, tasting somewhat like Swiss chard and cabbage
- 3 sprigs each fresh rosemary and sage leaves finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 shallots finely diced
- ½ tsp. crushed chilies
- 3 strips smoked bacon, fat trimmed (vegetarians omit the bacon and drizzle ½ tbsp. toasted sesame oil instead of olive oil over the finished dish for a smoky flavour
- 1 ½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp. each: salt and pepper,( kosher salt is a very pure and inexpensive choice)
- Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste (lactose intolerant, substitute pan grittata)
- Separate stems from kale leaves, chop stems finely and leaves coarsely
- In a large deep skillet sauté stems in a little water until tender, add kale leaves and cook until soft, remove from pan and reserve with cooking water in a bowl
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil add pasta and cook until al dente
- Coarsely chop bacon
- Heat 1 tbsp. oil in the skillet over med-high heat, add herbs, garlic, shallots chilies, bacon, sauté until bacon is brown and vegetables soft,
- Add beans, sautéed kale, reduce heat to low, add 1 tbsp. pasta water, season with salt and pepper, stir and cover loosely
- Drain pasta, add to skillet off heat, toss to coat in sauce, adjust seasonings, drizzle with ½ tbsp. oil before serving and top with cheese or pan grittata.
Pan grittata –(Italian breadcrumbs)
This crunchy, nutty and savoury Italian topping turns necessity into a virtue; a way to use stale bread and a substitute for expensive cheese.
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 1 ½ cups coarsely torn pieces of stale, Italian style or gluten-free bread
- 1 tbsp. thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- A pinch each black pepper and salt
- In a fry pan, heat oil over med-high heat, add almonds and breadcrumbs, lightly toast, spread out on a chopping board, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, let cool
- Chop all ingredients until medium-fine, sprinkle over finished pasta
- Keep pan grittata in a bag for 2-3 days, use for garnishing soups, salads and pastas