Operators get creative with gluten free
Avoiding dietary gluten, whether for medical necessity or simply as a lifestyle choice, used to mean saying farewell to pasta, a beloved staple of the American diet. However, the deprivation is over on college and university campuses that serve flavorful dishes made with gluten-free pasta.
If you’re a student at the University of Colorado Boulder with celiac disease, or one that’s exploring alternative diets, there is a foolproof way to identify a gluten-free pasta in the dining hall. A single, distinctive pasta shape is reserved for all gluten-free pasta dishes on campus—Barilla gluten-free rotini.
The rotini is held separately from the standard semolina pasta to avoid contact with gluten. In addition, rotini dishes are made with separate batches of sauce and cheese that are prepared fresh daily and used only that day to lessen the risk of gluten transfer.
“Students love the fact that we listened to them, and we know that pasta is just as important to people who can’t eat gluten,” says Paul Houle, associate director of campus dining services at Colorado. “And we even see people who usually eat gluten having the rotini.”
At San Jose State University in California, Bricks Pizza & Pasta, the school’s own branded concept, Barilla gluten-free products such as penne, spaghetti and elbows are used for all pasta dishes.
“We chose to be all gluten free in the pasta area to really cut down the risks of cross contamination of gluten,” says Steven Olesen, senior director of procurement and budget services at SJSU. “It was also important to show people that we were listening and offering gluten-free menu options.”
Gluten-free eating extends well beyond the collegiate scene to affect commercial restaurants and food retailers as well. My Fit Foods is a 52-unit, Austin, Texas-based retail store/restaurant chain. It offers a menu of more than 60 pre-portioned dishes made with healthful ingredients to take home or eat on the premises. All of the items are gluten free.
“Our philosophy of nutrition leads us to offer meals that inherently are free of gluten-containing ingredients,” says Dawn Piscitelli, senior vice president of marketing for My Fit Foods.
The pasta repertoire, all made with Barilla gluten-free products, includes Turkey Pasta, with lean ground turkey, Italian spices and a lively tomato sauce; Chili Mac, topped with Southwest-style chili and cheddar cheese and Supreme Pizza Pasta, with vegan sausage and sauteed vegetables.
For best results with gluten-free pasta, Colorado’s Houle recommends using a higher ratio of cooking water to product than one would with semolina pasta—about four-to-one—and stirring the pasta well at the beginning of cooking to prevent clumping.
“We have found the Barilla product cooks well, holds well and refreshes well,” says Houle. “It is really very close to its semolina sibling.”