As a child, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was the epitome of my dinner hopes and dreams. Before we hit teenager-dom, every time Mum would ask what my sister and I wanted for dinner, we would scream out macaroni and cheese. We were easy children to please.
Of course, this changed as our taste buds did and the last time I had the Kraft mac and cheese from the tin, at maybe 14 years old, I thought it was disgusting. What was my child-self thinking? When it came time to make macaroni and cheese in our Home Ec. class at school, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I only associated the stuff with fake cheese sauce… little did I know that you can make the sauce yourself! Haha.
Times have changed since secondary school and cooking is now something I have to do more than once a week for a semester, although luckily I don’t get graded on it. Well, I sort of do. But at least I don’t have to complete a write up afterwards! Wait, isn’t that what this is? Gah!
I have no idea where on Earth that Home Ec. recipe is – probably in Mum’s kitchen somewhere – and in all honesty, I don’t remember being in love with it. But last week, when I had finished making four jars of a fructose friendly General Tso’s sauce (recipe coming) and sealed them, Evgeny decided that he didn’t want a stir fry that night. Double GAH! Well, I wasn’t going to make anything gourmet after I’d just spent so much time on the sauce, so my mind switched to easy mode. We had made a lasagne on the weekend and instead of a traditional bechamel sauce we used cream cheese as a base – considering that we had more cream cheese to get rid of (we’re currently trying to eat through out fridge and pantry) I decided it was time to make macaroni and cheese again and worked off that sauce.
Before I go any further, don’t shoot me, I didn’t have macaroni. I (successfully, woot!) trialled spelt pasta and the only shape it came in was rotini. Let’s not go calling this “rot and cheese,” though, because quite frankly it sounds like something that’s gone off.
- This meal is not lactose free.
- Substitute macaroni back in if you’d like, of course.
- Corn is low FODMAPs and gluten free, although it does contain other allergens.
- Cayenne pepper is generally well tolerated, just make sure the powder doesn’t contain onion or garlic.
Rotini and Cheese
- 2 1/4 cups uncooked pasta of your choice – I wouldn’t recommend spaghetti or fettuccine for this
- 2 cups grated cheese – I used 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan)
- 1 cup/225 g/8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup natural sour cream
- 1/3 cup crushed corn cereal/GF bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper – believe me, it makes a difference.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Bring a pot with at least 1.0 L (4 cups) of water to the boil and add a good pinch of salt. Stir in pasta and cook at a gentle boil until al dente, following the packet guidelines.
Meanwhile, melt the cream cheese and sour cream together over a low-medium heat until combined. Gradually add in the grated cheese, 1/2 cup at a time and stir with a whisk until completely smooth. Add in the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and leave on a low heat until the pasta is done. Cover it with a lid to prevent a skin from forming but this shouldn’t have to sit for too long until the pasta is done.
Strain the pasta and add it into the saucepan with the cheese sauce. Stir through thoroughly and then pour the contents into a baking dish, no greasing required. Top with the crumbs of your choice and sprinkle with extra cayenne pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Let it sit for 5 minutes before cutting into it and enjoy it with a fresh side salad.
I mentioned in my last post that I had made my basil pesto from basil that I’d grown on our balcony this summer. This was an achievement – I have struggled previously to either grow enough basil to make pesto worthwhile or to pick it before a huge downpour tears all the leaves off and leaves me with bare plants.
Feeling very proud of myself, I decided the best way to “display” said basil pesto was in as simple a dish as possible. You know, so you couldn’t miss it. And Ev would have to comment on it, positively, of course.
Gnocchi seemed the best way to go. And pesto gnocchi is a classic, so – decision made. Of course, we need to know any possible allergens in the gnocchi ingredients.
- I made this batch of gnocchi egg free… because I was rushing and I forgot. But you know what? I didn’t miss it, these were soft and delicious. I’d added sour cream (see #2) because Mum instilled me with a good love for all things potato and sour cream and afterward I realised that hey, some people, especially kids, can’t have eggs and they deserve to have delicious gnocchi as well. So there.
- You could add an egg in if you wanted the gnocchi to turn out a little more al dente – i.e. have a little more “chew” to them – but you will need to add extra flour. These were very tender but Ev prefers his with a little more bite.
- I added natural sour cream to this recipe. Full cream, not low fat – so if you use a low fat version I don’t know if the results will be consistent. But these were some creamy gnocchi(s). What’s the plural for gnocchi, anyway? If you are sensitive to lactose, use lactose free sour cream or, if you can eat eggs, replace the sour cream with a large egg and play around with flour til the dough reaches the right consistency.
I am not of any Italian descent whatsoever, so I don’t claim to be a gnocchi expert, or that these are “traditional.” Far from it. I just know that I like this variation of a gnocchi recipe for ease of assembly and cooking, and most importantly, taste. It’s the method that works for me, and it’s years ahead of store bought gnocchi in terms of everything, and if you make a huge batch and then freeze it in portions then you have a stash ready for whenever the need for comfort food calls.
Simple Potato Gnocchi
Serves 4 adults.
- 850 g/1 lb 14 oz peeled and rinsed white potatoes
- 1 cup GF plain flour – approximate
- 2 tbsp. natural sour cream, LF if required
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten – optional, will need more flour
- GF flour to sprinkle over bench
Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil them past the point of the fork piercing it easily (you know, when you’d usually stop). Keep boiling til the water gets starchy and the outsides have started to crumble a little. Then remove them from the water and roughly mash them in a large bowl.
Once mashed, tip them into a large metal sieve or colander with tony holes. If you have a potato ricer, use that. Unfortunately, I don’t. Place the sieve inside the bowl you just used for mashing – I’m all about as little washing up as possible – and, using the back of a spoon, force the mashed potatoes through the mesh and into the large bowl.
Once done, scrape as much of the potato as possible from the outside of the sieve and plonk it into the bowl. Now, add the sour cream, egg (optional) and salt and mix through thoroughly.
Add the flour, bit by bit, until you reach a good, doughy consistency. If you’ve added the egg, you’ll need to add in more flour; just make sure you add it gradually so the mixture doesn’t get too dry. The dough should be easy to handle, and look something like this. Please excuse my dirty hands, it was all in the name of good gnocchi.
Next, break off chunks of the dough and roll them until they are logs with a diameter of about 2.5 cm/1 inch. Cut each of these logs into little, bite sized pieces. It doesn’t really matter what size, as long as they are consistent for cooking reasons. Ours are normally 2.5 x 2.5 cm.
If you’re being super lazy (I’m not judging!) or you’re in a hurry – you can stop here and cook them. The next step is purely aesthetic; although, purists will say that gnocchi needs the little ridges and the dimple to allow as much sauce to cling to it as possible. This just reminded me of an old pasta add back in Australia, where they pasta shapes became progressively more ridiculous, with names like boot-oli and bucket-eli etc. Hehehe.
- Take one bite-sized piece,
- Roll it into a ball,
- Take a fork in one hand and the ball in another,
- Press the ball gently onto the fork’s prongs – firmly enough to create indentations but not so hard that you push the gnocchi through the gaps,
- Remove your finger – you should have left a dimple on the back,
- Lift the gnocchi up off the prongs,
- Roll it down off the prongs in such a way that the dimple become a fold,
Now do this for as many bite-sized pieces that you cut… Ev and I like to do this as a team. It goes by much quicker if one of us rolls and cuts while the other one prettifies the gnocchi.
To Freeze the Gnocchi
Lay the individual gnocchi out on a freezer safe tray – our plastic cutting boards work perfectly – and freeze for half an hour minimum before piling them into a container you can seal. We have had the heart wrenching privilege of discovering our frozen batch of gnocchi stuck to each other like glue because we piled it into a container before they were individually frozen. Rookie mistake.
To Cook the Gnocchi
Bring a suitably-sized pot of water to the boil, salt it, then reduce it until it is boiling only very slowly. Carefully put your gnocchi in the boiling water – I had a nice burn for the rest of the night – and leave them in until they begin to rise to the top of the water.
Remove them and sit them on a plate to air-dry off a little. We used a paper towel in this photo but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not all paper towels are created equal and I’d hate for you to destroy your hard work with flimsy paper towel sticking all over it.
I always like to have a jar of pesto around, and nothing beats homemade basil pesto. Except this year, when I made my pesto from basil that I grew out on our balcony! Quite a feat without a back yard but it just goes to show, it can be done! I’m lucky enough to have a balcony, I know someone who has managed to grow peppers inside, next to a window. Kudos to her! I suppose you could top home grown basil with home grown pine nuts or if you owned a cow and could make your own Parmesan cheese… but let’s be realistic. Nobody is that good.
- Garlic infused olive oil is considered low FODMAP by Monash Uni – just make sure that, if you buy it, the brand you buy doesn’t contain any garlic bits. Those who are particularly sensitive may need to just use a good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead. A tbsp. of lemon juice would add in some extra flavour.
- Store bought garlic infused oils vary in intensity of flavour, so, please use your discretion with how much you add to your pesto and replace the rest with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. I used homemade garlic olive oil for this recipe.
- Please use good quality oil, it makes all the difference in this oil-based sauce. Bad oil will leave a bad after taste, I can’t stress that enough. I’ve made that mistake before.
- This pesto recipe always changes slighlty, each time I make it. One year the basil might be more strongly flavoured than another, I might feel like adding a little more or less Parmesan cheese. If you make it and you want to add a little more salt, or a little extra oil to get the consistency that you prefer, go ahead. There is not a right or wrong way of doing this.
- Parmesan cheese is low FODMAP due to its lower lactose content, however it is not vegetarian, as it contains rennet. For a vegetarian version, use a rennet-free hard style cheese.
I apologise for the lack of step-by-step photos. I took them but I can’t find them anywhere!
Makes approx. 2 x pint sized jars of pesto sauce.
- 3 well packed cups of fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil – more if you like a runnier pesto
- 1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- Salt to taste
- A few drops of EVOO to cover it once in jars.
Place the basil leaves, garlic-infused olive oil, pine nuts and salt in your food processor and blitz until smooth and well combined. This might take a little while, as depending on the quality of your food processor, you might need to add only half of the basil to begin with and let that process before you add the rest. Some blenders will struggle and just whiz a hole in the centre, while forcing everything to the outside. If this is the case, you will need to stop every now and again to push all the ingredients back into the bottom.
Once the processed mixture is finished, add in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese actually has a nice flavour and is quite soft, unlike pre-grated cheese. It’s well worth it. If your mixer has a “mix” setting, put the Parmesan in and turn it onto “mix” until it has combined evenly. Otherwise, fold it in yourself.
Scoop the now finished basil pesto into jars for storage, leaving 2 cm between the pesto and the top of the jar. Place a little bit of garlic-infused olive oil – maybe 5 mm in height – over the top of the pesto to seal it from the air. This helps it to keep longer. I freeze one jar and keep the in-use jar in the fridge.
Napoli sauce is a tomato-based, vegetarian sauce that is useful for pastas, parmigianas and many other meals. It is a mix of tomatoes and other vegetables and herbs that are slowly cooked to release the flavours and thicken nicely. Delicious.
I’ve had a few misunderstandings, since moving to Seattle – for some reason, in America, apart from calling it “red sauce” or “spaghetti sauce,” they also call it “marinara.” This makes absolutely no sense to me; back home in Australia, “marinara” sauce refers to a seafood pasta sauce, either cream- or tomato-based. Marine life = seafood, right? I’ll just have to live with it, I suppose… but if any American out there can enlighten me as to why Napoli sauce is called marinara in the States I’d love to know why. Maybe there is a logical reason? Or maybe it was all just a big misunderstanding 😛
- Many can tolerate garlic infused olive oil, as FODMAPs are water soluble, so don’t seep into the oil.
- Tomatoes can be tricky for those with FM; while many are not affected at all, some can be. The paste is the worst offender because it is in such a concentrated form – even though tomatoes aren’t on the unfavourable list, they still increase the fructose load of a meal (Figure 2, Shepherd & Gibson, 2006). Diced tomatoes, on the other hand, are just cooked diced tomatoes that are preserved in jars/cans, the method of which you can read here and try for yourself at home. It is very similar to the canning process I use for jams. But essentially, they are not in the concentrated form of tomato pastes, so most of us would need to eat a lot for a reaction to occur – this can of course differ between individuals. You do need to be careful of what is added to the diced tomatoes, though. Onion is often added, so make sure you check the ingredients if they elicit your reactions.
- One stalk of celery is considered high in mannitol, so depending on your sensitivity, you may need to sub in another vegetable, such as celeriac. As the single stalk called for in this recipe is spread over 4-5 servings, you may be able to tolerate the reduced polyol load.
- Lug of olive oil (or garlic infused oil) to seal your pot
- 2 cloves of garlic, whole or minced (if not using garlic oil above)
- 1 cup green leek tips, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 zucchini, finely diced
- 2 small carrots, finely diced
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. oregano
- 1 cup red wine*
- 1 tbsp. gluten free Balsamic vinegar
- A few sprigs of herbs of your choice, finely diced. I used thyme; basil, rosemary or parsley would also give this sauce their own zing.
- Salt and pepper to taste
*Make sure your wine is cheap enough to cook with but good enough that you don’t mind drinking what is left of the bottle!
Seal your pan, then lower heat. Add garlic and leek tips and fry until fragrant; remove the whole garlic cloves if you cannot tolerate the flesh, or leave in the minced garlic if you can. Add the rest of the vegetables and the bay leaves and continue cooking until they release their juices (flavours!) and soften considerably, about 10 minutes.
Next, add the diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper, red wine and balsamic vinegar.
Bring the sauce to the boil for a minute then let it reduce to a simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes, then with the lid off for another 30 minutes to let it reduce. You can alter lid-off time depending on how runny/thick you like your sauce.
You could also reserve some of the herbs, if they are fresh, to garnish at the end if you are serving this over pasta. Wheat-free pasta, of course.
Also, if you like a very smooth sauce, you can either grate all the veggies to begin with or put the sauce in a food processor once it is cooked. It’s up to you!