The list of foods containing gluten is overwhelming for the newly diagnosed. Perusing any gluten-free aisle offers hope—and can overwhelm all over again. The selection of mixes and quick fixes for brownies, cakes, breads, and other normally glutenous no-nos has become quite wide, and so it begs the question: Which one is the best? We started the sampling process with products in the most widely produced, legit-looking packaging. In 2009, that was Gluten Free Pantry and Bob’s Red Mill; now we’d likely be drawn to Betty Crocker, King Arthur, and Hodgson Mill.
I won’t get into who makes the best brownies, but I will divulge our top pick for another off-limits, oft-replicated food: pasta. We’ve tried pretty much every brand available in Ankeny, Iowa, and for noodles and spaghetti, we recommend Ancient Grains quinoa pasta. Hands down. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to test the various GF pastas—the prep requires no extra/special effort, and among GF convenience foods, pasta is on the less-expensive end of the spectrum. I can honestly say that, in terms of taste, I don’t miss regular pasta one bit.
One thing I do miss, though, is no-boil lasagna noodles. I’ll admit it: I’m a lazy cook. I use canned and frozen beans and vegetable products whenever possible. So when I went to make my first batch of GF lasagna, I was faced with the task of boiling the noodles for the first time in my life. It didn’t go well. The noodles stuck together, then stuck to the paper towels I drained them on, and they just didn’t have the same texture of the old Barilla sheets I was accustomed to. Hence, lasagna has been a rare treat around my house for the last few years.
Then recently I ran across a recipe for slow cooker lasagna. I was intrigued. I’ll try anything in the slow cooker—again, lazy cook. What became even more intriguing was the fact that the recipe specifically called for uncooked lasagna noodles. The old-fashioned, non-no-boil noodles—the only kind I’ve found in GF form on local grocery shelves. Worth a shot, right?
Right. It worked like a charm. The noodles cooked up perfectly, the filling was just like the lasagna I used to make, and, most important, it tasted “normal.” Of course, it had been so long since I’d served Ava lasagna that she tried it—barely—and decided she didn’t like it. But that wasn’t the most important test for me. The greatest lesson was that we grown-ups in the household can now make our funky, chunky lasagna concoctions without the worry of contaminating pots, dishes, or Ava. Hooray!
You can find the basic recipe here, on Betty Crocker’s website: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/slow-cooker-lasagna/23546794-7262-47be-9ca4-e12c900399a1
I skipped the onion (for Ava’s sake) and used fewer noodles (because there aren’t as many in a GF box, and for our tastes that was plenty). But you could add, subtract, or modify to your heart’s content. Or even just Google it—I’d love to create a veggie-filled version, maybe even with white sauce. The only downside is the lack of structure in the end product; you won’t get pristine rectangles displaying a crisp cross-section of noodles and filling. It’s more of a loose interpretation of lasagna. But the flavor is still there—and that’s all that matters to this lazy cook