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The pesto pasta salad that wasn't?

August 1, 2019

As I continue to figure out life with a fructan intolerance, I wondered how to enjoy the summer staple of pesto pasta salad. The solution: by making recipe adjustments, of course.

 

Let's start with the pasta part. Since traditional Italian pastas are made with wheat, which contains fructan, a serving size should be limited to half of a cup, cooked. But who is satisfied with that? Not me, that's who.

 

One suggestion would be to use a wheat-free pasta. I've tried pastas made from brown rice flour only to be disappointed. See, there's a narrow Goldilock's zone between undercooked noodles and them losing their shape and falling to pieces. I'm curious to try pastas made from chickpeas, mung beans, lentils, and/or edamame because of all of the legumes, they contain the lowest percentage of GOS (the carb that gives beans their "musical fruit" reputation). Which just goes to show that while gluten-free products tend to be wheat-free (but not always) and therefore fructan-free, they're also not necessarily low FODMAP.

 

There's an easier way. Skip the pasta entirely and substitute boiled red potatoes instead. But that's not a pasta salad, that's a potato salad. So what? Potato salad is also a delicious summer staple!

 

On to the pesto.

 

I can no longer make pesto the way I used to with fresh garlic. But there are low FODMAP ways to get the flavor of garlic into your pesto. When they are in season at the farmers' market (or if you grow hardneck garlic in your garden), you can use garlic scapes, the green shoots that would produce a flower on a growing hardneck garlic plant. See, fructan is concentrated in allium (garlic & onion) bulbs and not the green parts.

 

Another way to get garlic flavor into your pesto is to use either a store-bought or homemade garlic-infused oil. It's better living through chemistry: fructan is water-soluble and not oil-soluble, so a properly prepared garlic-infused oil is low FODMAP. The preparation is key, which is why not every store-bought garlic-infused oil is low FODMAP. If there are visible pieces of garlic in the bottle, it's definitely not, so I prefer to make my own. It's simple enough to slice a garlic clove in half, warm it in a little olive oil until fragrant without browning the garlic, and then discard the garlic pieces before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. I've also made larger batches of garlic-infused oil, portioned them in containers, and frozen them for later use. Homemade garlic-infused oil is not considered shelf-stable nor should it be kept in the fridge for longer than 3 days, but it can be stored indefinitely in the freezer.

 

There's one more option for the garlic: skip it. Pesto has lots of big bold flavors, so maybe garlic isn't needed after all. If you have a favorite fancy olive oil, here would be the place to use it.

 

From there, I stand behind my previous pesto recipe. For the green stuff, I went with basil because I have lots of it growing right now, but I've used arugula, kale, and even blanched dandelion greens (if you can't beat the weeds, eat them!). Likewise, pine nuts are expensive, so I tend to use walnuts, sunflower seeds, and/or pepitas. I'm ok with dairy, so I use parmesan, but if you're not, skip it. Salt, pepper, and olive oil are essential, but I also like a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavors and preserve the green color.

 

Here's where I have to admit that I used too much pesto. Can that be true? Well, when you can't see the ingredients in your potato salad, maybe you went a little overboard. In addition to potatoes, there's cherry tomatoes from my garden, diced yellow bell pepper, black olives, and canned artichoke hearts. Not that you can see them under all that pesto.

 

While it looks gloopy in the photo, it tastes like summer. 

 

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