There are a few people in my family who are gluten-free and one of their biggest complaints is that finding a decent gluten-free pasta is difficult and costly. Since removing gluten from their diets, they say the food item they miss most is bread but enjoying a decent pasta dish is a very close second.
Last year when I attended the Casa Barilla Cooking School I was delighted to hear that after many years of developing and trialling a wheat-free pasta, the company would soon be releasing its gluten-free range.
A few weeks ago I was invited to the launch of Barilla’s gluten-free range at A Tavola in Darlinghurst. ‘A Tavola’ is Italian for ‘At the Table’ and the restaurant not only has an extremely lengthy marble table where diners can sit and socialise, it also has extremely authentic Italian pasta.
On a beautiful winter’s day the launch of Barilla’s gluten-free range started with all guests enjoying a welcome drink of Aperol Spritz or a glass of Prosecco while mingling around the long marble table that is usually filled with A Tavola’s regular and loyal diners. The welcome drinks were enjoyed with some stuffed and fried green olives that unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to taste.
We moved through the narrow restaurant and past the kitchen, then down a staircase to an enclosed courtyard. The room was set up Italian-style with two very long wooden tables covered in white tablecloths and decorated simply and elegantly with modern floral arrangements.
We started the meal with some house bread dipped in chilli oil then the first of Barilla’s three gluten-free pastas arrived in big bowls that were placed along the table. Elbows con Vongole e Cannellini pasta was such an Italian looking dish with the fresh seafood and the beans mixed with the pasta. I was surprised at how well the elbow pasta shapes held together as my prior experience with gluten-free pasta has been that it tends to fall apart.
The next course was Spaghetti dell’ Ortolano which was spaghetti with organic vegetables. The pasta twirled around the fork beautifully and the vegetable sauce was tasty yet subtle. I noticed the pasta is slightly more yellow in colour than traditional pasta and it is the corn that gives the pasta its colour as Barilla’s gluten-free pasta range is made with non-GMO corn and rice flours.
In terms of flavour, the next course was my favourite and it was Penne con Salsiccia e Carciofi which was penne with pork sausages, artichokes and parmesan. I loved this and will try to recreate it at home. There was a hint of chilli in the sauce which gave it a little kick and the pork and artichokes were a terrific combination. The penne pasta holds together very well and has great texture.
The dessert was a show-stopper. On the A Tavola menu it is famous and frequently ordered. It was Creminello which was chocolate, salted caramel and Italian Meringue served in a coffee cup. It looked so much like a cappuccino that when one was placed in front of the woman opposite me she said to the waiter, ‘No coffee for me, thanks’.
I was really pleased this wasn’t a coffee and couldn’t believe my luck in finding all three of my favourite dessert flavours served in one cup. We were informed the best way to eat this is to push your spoon to the bottom of the cup so that as you pull it out, all three flavours end up on your spoon. This was a fantastic way to finish off a very beautiful lunch and an inspired reason for returning to A Tavola very soon.
As we were leaving we were given personalised gift-bags. Inside there were a variety of pasta sauces along with the three types of gluten-free pasta; spaghetti, elbows and penne. There was also an apron with my name on it – love it!
In shopping for gluten-free pasta, I usually find that it’s very expensive. With Barilla, you can buy a traditional box of their pasta for around $2.50 for 500gms. I was pleased to hear that the Barilla gluten-free range is less than $4.00 for a 340gm box.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at the launch of Barilla’s gluten-free range and was impressed with the texture and taste of the pasta, as well as how well it performed in terms of it holding together and the spaghetti being able to twirl around the fork. The price is reasonable and then there’s the convenience of being able to purchase the product at local supermarkets. And then there’s the taste! I believe Barilla’s gluten-free pasta comes as close to performing and tasting like traditional pastas as I have been able to find.
For information on Barilla’s gluten-free range as well as recipes, you can visit Barilla’s website.