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On a recent visit to Jovial Foods in North Stonington, CT, I discovered how great gluten-free pasta can be and uncovered a few tips for turning it into delicious, quick meals every time.

Lots of water, a little salt and a simple recipe are a few of the essentials, says Carla Bartolucci, owner of Jovial Foods.

Carla prides herself on getting a meal on the table in the time it takes to cook the pasta. To do that, she cooks the vegetables with the pasta so everything is ready at once.

She made our fabulous (and very simple) lunch that way.  It begins with Jovial’s new Farfalle (bow tie) pasta, a treat in itself.  

Gluten-free pasta dishes have to be wetter, she says. Brown rice absorbs a lot of extra liquid. She saved some cooking water to add back to the sauce as she prepared our lunch of farfalle with broccoli, baby kale, ground turkey and cannellini beans.   I’ve made a version of it several times, using the vegetables on hand.  If yours are quick-cooking veggies, add them for the last couple of minutes but be sure the water is boiling before adding them.  

Here’s the yummy recipe.   

1, 12-ounce box Jovial Farfalle (Bow Tie Pasta)
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
4 cups baby kale, snipped with scissors
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
½ pound ground dark meat turkey
1, 13oz jar (about 2 cups) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a 4 quart pot of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the farfalle, broccoli, and baby kale. Do not lower the heat. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. If you like your vegetables crisper wait 2 minutes before adding the vegetables to the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil and garlic to a large sauté pan and cook over low medium heat until the garlic become fragrant, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic and discard. Add the turkey and sauté until no longer pink. Add the beans and heat. Add about ½ cup of the pasta water and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly.

Drain the pasta and veggies and add to the turkey mixture. Toss well. Drizzle with more olive oil and add cheese to taste and serve with additional cheese.

Quick Chili Mac and Cheese

I think of myself as the champion of substitution.  But truthfully, I hit a wall when asked to come up with a Macaroni and Cheese recipe recently.  I hadn’t made Mac and Cheese since my son was a little boy.  So many steps – – making a cream sauce, grating the cheese, cooking the pasta.  Oh yes, the pasta.  Gluten-free pasta always turned out gummy and mushy when I made it.  And the final dish was too rich for my taste.  So what was the incentive?  Where was the payoff?

Then I came up with a few shortcuts.  I replaced the cream sauce with hot chicken broth and added spicy Jack Cheese and let it melt – – cream sauce in seconds without the cream!    For flavor, I cooked spicy chicken sausage, crumbled it and stirred in corn and green chilies.

But the big discovery came when I cooked the pasta only half as long as the instructions indicated.  I finished this recipe by microwaving it and the pasta finished cooking while it absorbed some of the wonderful flavors of the sauce.

This recipe has become my favorite, my go-to quick meal during the cooler months.  And the pasta holds together.  No mush in this dish and no fuss, either. This is Mac and Cheese all grown up and it’s so delicious and easy to make, I wonder why I waited so long.

Chili Mac and Cheese 
Serves 6

This versatile recipe tastes even better the second day. To add more fire, use the hottest sausage you can find.  If you prefer a vegetarian version, omit the sausage or use a vegetarian sausage that’s safe for your diet.

3 cups (12 ounces) dried elbow pasta or 3-4 cups (8-10 ounces) other short pasta, uncooked
3-4 hot or mild chicken, turkey or pork sausages
1½ cups frozen corn
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 cup gluten-free, dairy-free chicken stock
2 teaspoons gluten-free Mexican or dairy-free Taco spice blend
2½ cups shredded spicy Jack Cheese or dairy-free cheese substitute, divided

Lightly oil a deep ovenproof dish (7½x11-inch, 9×13-inch, 9-inch round).

Cook pasta in salted water for half the time specified on package. Pasta should be undercooked (slightly opaque but not brittle). Drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.

While pasta is cooking, remove sausage from its casing and crumble into a well-oiled saucepan. Sauté meat until brown. Add corn and chilies, stirring to combine.

Using a wooden spoon, gently fold meat mixture into pasta.

Heat chicken stock in the saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add the spice blend and stir well.  Remove from heat and add 2 cups grated cheese. Stir until smooth and pour over pasta. Gently toss to coat.

Top mixture with remaining cheese. Cover dish with moist paper towel and microwave on medium-high for 5 minutes or until bubbly.  Enjoy.