Oh – does that not look just too appealing for words? When Jane Smith, our illustrator drew this cover for us Italy was in the depths of pandemic lockdown. Jane told us that the couple with their glass of wine and their grissini at the table in front were two good friends of hers, cooped up in a one bedroom flat and so longing to be sitting in that piazza
And what a perfect introduction to Anna’s wonderful classic Italian recipes, so many of which have always been off limits to coeliacs for ever. Or so they thought. In fact, although pasta and pizza were always an issue, outside those dishes, classic Italian cuisine uses very little wheat flour. Indeed, in the south they use very few milk products either and when they do it is usually either buffalo or sheep milk, or long matured cheeses such as Parmigiano or Pecorno which are very low in lactose.
And this is important for coeliacs. Especially important for newly diagnosed coeliacs whose gut lining may have been damaged to the point that it does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose sugar in milk products. So just a gluten free diet is not enough, they also need it to be low in lactose.
As Anna says in the introduction to be book, it took me a long time to persuade her that adapting her wonderful classic Italian recipes to be gluten free and even, on occasion dairy free would not entirely destroy them in the process. I have to admit that she is still unconvinced by some of my dairy-free adaptations (panna cotta with coconut milk……) although they do actually work well. But as regards gluten-free pasta, she was won over by the selection that I sent her a couple of years ago. Indeed, so won over that she started devising new sauces that would work particularly well with some of the interesting different textures of chickpea or teff pasta.
The result is around 90 of her recipes – soups, pasta dishes, rice and pulse dishes vegetable dishes, salads and desserts. The majority are for classic Italian dishes but with some interesting outliers: Smoked salmon and pesto sauce for seaweed spaghetti…. Risotto with prawns and mustard…. Plums in wine syrup with rosemary….
With very few exceptions her recipes are delightfully simple. So simple, sometimes, that you wonder if that is right. But, trust her. I have lost count of the number of times that I have hesitated over a recipe only to realise, when I tasted the dish, that she was entirely right and the recipe was indeed, perfect. For example:
CHICKPEA OR BUCKWHEAT PASTA WITH GARLIC, OLIVE OIL AND ROSEMARY
Anna says: This is a robust, piquant sauce ideal for chickpea or buckwheat pasta. You might like to put in more chilli pepper or less. Taste it – careful, a tiny bit is quite enough – and decide for yourself.
Michelle says: A great, simple and totally free-from dish.
14 oz/400g chickpea or buckwheat fusilli or penne
7 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1–2 fresh chilli peppers, cores and seeds removed, finely chopped
2 rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
Cook the pasta in plenty of well salted, boiling water according to the instructions on the pack.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, throw in the chopped garlic, chilli and rosemary and fry, stirring constantly for 1 minute, pressing the ingredients to release the juices.
Drain the pasta and turn it immediately into the frying pan. Now stir it over and over so that all the shapes can get thoroughly dressed.
Sprinkle with the lemon juice, stir again and serve at once, straight from the pan.