One of my favorite food movies, Big Night, has a scene in the restaurant owned by Italian immigrant brothers Primo and Secundo, a version of which has occasionally played out in our house over the years. In this scene, a woman who has ordered risotto asks for a side order of spaghetti. Primo, the brilliant, gifted chef, refuses to provide the spaghetti on the grounds that two starches don’t go together in a meal. Incensed at the woman’s culinary philistinism, Primo sarcastically suggests to his brother that perhaps the woman would also like a side of mashed potatoes.
(credit: film clip by plongeaux, www.youtube.com)
We may not be inclined to eat spaghetti and rice in the same meal, but Phillip and I do love our carb-laden foods. In recent years, however, we have tried to cut our carb intake. Although I don’t believe in removing entire categories of food other than gluten from my diet, a reduction in carbs might help me avoid some of the weight problems with which my extended family struggle. Carbs are not inherently evil, but the theory supported by Dr. Tim Noakes that some people have a genetic sensitivity to carbs that make starchy, carbohydrate-laden foods lead to weight gain and related health problems seems to make sense. The problem with our attempt at reducing carbohydrates is that Phillip and I really love carb-full foods. Everything good, true, and delicious contains a high amount of carbohydrates. All the comfort foods do. When a girl has a bad day, she totally goes for the ice cream or chocolate truffles when she gets home. She never says to herself, “I’ve such a bad day. I deserve some kale or broccoli.” Ok, she might choose to have a steak, which is a solid low-carb choice of comfort food, to make her bad day better. But mostly she goes for the carbs. Since Phillip and I can’t bear to give up carbohydrates completely, I try to find ways to feel good about the carbohydrates we do eat.
One of the benefits of having been diagnosed with Celiac Disease is that the diagnosis led to me discover a variety of flours I may have never found, or tried, had I not been forced to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Hemp flour is one of those flours. Made from ground hemp seeds, it’s a grain free flour that contains a high amount of digestible protein, omega 3, gamma linolenic acid (fights inflammation), conjugated linolenic acid (fights fat), vitamins B, E, and D, and hardly any carbs. I can bake or cook with hemp flour and reduce my carbs while also enjoying carbs. Hemp seed flour has an earthy nutty (and sort of grassy?) flavor, so I prefer to use it in savory dishes or in muffins that we plan to eat before a run. Hemp seed flour pasta is especially delicious. When I make it, I use hemp seed flour for about a third of the combination of flours I use in my pasta dough, which is enough for the flavor to be noticeable but not so much that the flavor is over-powering. I recently paired hemp seed pasta with Trader Joe’s Autumnal Harvest Creamy pasta sauce. Since I made the pasta from scratch, I allowed myself to take a shortcut with the sauce – but I did add a little gluten-free bourbon to the sauce, which gave it a little home-made touch. Anyway, the fresh, earthy flavor of the hemp pasta complemented the fall flavors in the pasta sauce. Sprinkled with freshly grated Manchego cheese, this healthy and lower (if not low) carb pasta definitely fulfills that carb craving.
Just a note about hemp flour pasta: traditional tomato pasta sauce doesn’t quite work with the nutty, grassy flavor as well as other flavors. In addition to the fall flavors of butternut squash and pumpkin, a light sauce made with lemon juice, butter, lemon zest, sliced baby bella mushrooms, and sautéed shallot goes well with the hemp flavor, or simply serve the pasta plain with some shredded parmesan or Manchego cheese stirred in.
- 100 g hemp seed flour
- 100 g cassava flour
- 100 g tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon ground chia seed
- 2 - 4 eggs
- egg yolk, as needed
- Add the flours and chia seed together in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to blend the flours and chia seed together well. Add two whole eggs and pulse until the eggs are well blended into the dry ingredients. At this point the mixture will be dry and resemble corn meal. Add another whole egg and pulse to blend in well. If the mixture is still too dry to form a ball in the food processor, add another whole egg and pulse until well blended. At this point the pasta dough should form a ball. Test the moisture of the pasta dough by pulling off a piece and pressing it between your fingers. If it seems crumbly and inelastic, press the dough ball in the food processor down and add an egg yolk. Pulse until the dough forms again into a ball. You may need to add a second egg yolk to get the dough to the right consistency. Each time you make the pasta, the amount of eggs you need to add will vary (depending upon the size of the eggs, the humidity in the air, etc). The pasta should be slightly sticky; dough that is too wet is easier to extrude through a pasta machine than dough that is too dry. Form the dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow it to rest for at least thirty minutes to allow the flours to absorb the moisture from the eggs. After the pasta has rested, cut the disks into fourths. Working with one fourth of the dough at a time, wrap the rest of the dough in plastic wrap to keep it moist. Sprinkle the piece of dough with tapioca or arrowroot starch to prevent it from sticking while it's extruded through the pasta machine. Press the piece of dough into a disk, and pass it through the rollers of the pasta machine, with the dial set on zero. This step will take longer than the other steps in forming the dough into fettuccini. Keep extruding the dough through the rollers set on zero, sprinkling with tapioca or arrowroot starch as needed, working with the dough until it has smooth, even edges. Set the dial to 1 and extrude the dough through the rollers. Set the dial to 2 and extrude the dough through the rollers. At this point, cut the strip of dough in half to keep it from tearing as you finish extruding it through the machine. Using half the dough strip at a time, extrude through the roller with the dial set on 3, and then again on 4, flouring as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. After the strip of dough is extruded through the rollers set on 4, it is ready to be extruded through the fettuccini attachment. Use one hand to ease the dough into the fettuccini attachment, using the other hand to catch the fettuccini as it comes out of the extruder. Either nest the fettuccini on a parchment-lined baking sheet, or hang it from a pasta dryer. Repeat this step with the other half of the pasta dough strip, then repeat the entire process with each of the remaining sections of pasta dough. Pasta can be frozen for later use. Cook fresh pasta for about 3 minutes in boiling water; frozen pasta for about 5 minutes in boiling water.