Easy dinner recipes: Guilt-free pasta ideas for Gluten-free Wednesday

It's Gluten-Free Wednesday. If you're like so many who crave pasta but need to stay away from wheat, fret no more. Check out these ideas:

Rice noodle bowl with stir-fried beef: You can't go wrong here when you're craving a great noodle bowl. A fresh, crunchy salad is topped with a mound of noodles and richly flavored stir-fried beef. Garnish with fried shallots and peanuts and serve alongside a dipping sauce for a simple one-dish meal that comes together in about an hour. 

Cashew cream fettuccine Alfredo: With its rich flavor, you might not guess this dish is both gluten-free and vegan! Rice fettuccine is tossed with sauteed spinach and a rich cashew cream sauce, then garnished with delicate (vegan) parmesan crisps, making for a dramatic presentation.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Rice noodles with Chinese chives, shrimp and pork: Larger than their Western counterparts, Chinese chives lend a fresh yet delicate garlic flavor to Asian rice noodles with their full, flat leaves. In this quick recipe, the chives are cooked along with shrimp, pork and flat rice noodles, making for a lightly sweet dish, brightened with a squeeze of fresh lime at the end. You can find Chinese chives and noodles at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets.

If you are sensitive to gluten, check all ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free before using, as many may contain trace gluten (such as spices, a number of which include flour as an anti-caking agent), and/or are produced in facilities that also process gluten-based products.

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

QUICK & EASY: 99 terrific recipes in about an hour or less


Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 4 as a 1-dish meal


1/3 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)

1 tablespoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (optional)

3 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup lukewarm water

5 to 6 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste

2 or 3 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, sugar and water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors to balance the sweet and sour as needed.

2. Add the fish sauce, starting with 5 tablespoons and then adding more as your palate dictates, balancing the sour, sweet and salty. How much you use depends on the brand and your own taste. Aim for a light honey or amber color and a bold, forward finish. Keep in mind that this sauce is typically used to dress dishes that include unsalted ingredients such as lettuce and herbs -- ingredients that will need an extra flavor lift. When you're satisfied, add the chiles. (If diners are sensitive to chile heat, serve the chiles on the side.) The sauce may be prepared early in the day and left at room temperature until serving. This makes about 1 1/2 cups dipping sauce.CRISPY CARAMELIZED SHALLOT (HANH PHI)

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot, from 1 very large or 2 to 3 smaller shallots

3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

1. To ensure the shallot slices crisp up, you must first remove some excess moisture. Using your fingers, separate the slices into individual layers, depositing them on a paper towel. Gather up the paper towel and gently blot away the moisture.

2. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the sliced shallot and fry gently, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. After 5 to 6 minutes, when the shallot is fragrant and lightly golden, watch the progress closely, moving the slices frequently by stirring them or swirling the pan. During frying, the shallot slices will soften into a mass and then stiffen as they caramelize and crisp. When most of the slices are a rich golden brown, remove the pan from the heat. The total cooking time should be about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallot slices to a paper towel-lined plate, spreading them out in a single layer. Discard the fragrant oil or reserve it for other uses.

3. When the shallot slices have cooled, crisped and darkened slightly, transfer them to a small bowl or plate. Left uncovered at room temperature, they will retain their crispiness for a good 8 hours. Even if they no longer rustle when you shake them, they are still tasty.NOODLE BOWL AND ASSEMBLY

1 teaspoon cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce

1 pound flank steak, cut across the grain into strips about 3 inches long and a scant 1/4 inch thick

Leaves from 1/2 small head red or green leaf lettuce, cut crosswise into 1/4 -inch wide ribbons (about 2 packed cups)

1 pickling (Kirby) cucumber or 1/2 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into matchsticks

2 cups bean sprouts (about 1/3 pound)

1/3 cup roughly chopped assorted fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint, red perilla (tia to), Thai basil (hung que) and Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi)

2/3 pound small dried round rice noodles (bun), cooked in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, drained and flushed with cold water

3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil, divided

1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced lengthwise 1/4 -inch thick (aim for a moon-sliver shape and the onion will look really nice)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup crispy caramelized shallot

1 1/2 cups basic dipping sauce

1. Marinate the beef: In a shallow bowl large enough to accommodate the beef, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, fish sauce and soy sauce until thoroughly combined. Add the beef and use chopsticks or your fingers to coat evenly. Set the mixture aside to marinate while you ready the bowls.

2. Make the salad mix: In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts and herbs and toss well. Divide the salad among 4 noodle soup-sized bowls and top with a layer of noodles. Set the bowls aside while you stir-fry the beef.

3. To stir-fry a large quantity of meat successfully on a home kitchen stove, it is best to work in batches and then bring them together at the end. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until slightly soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry for about 15 seconds, or until aromatic. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

4. Increase the heat to high and add another tablespoon of oil. Add half of the marinated beef, spreading it out into a single layer. Cook the beef, undisturbed, until it begins to brown, about 1 minute, then flip and stir-fry it for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is still slightly rare. Transfer to the plate holding the onions and garlic. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the second half of the beef. When the second batch is just about done, return the onion and garlic, the first batch of beef and any accumulated juices to the pan. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes to heat through and finish cooking the beef.

5. Remove from the heat and divide evenly among the bowls. Top with the peanuts and shallot. Serve immediately with the sauce for diners to dress and toss their own bowls.

Each of 4 servings: 745 calories; 32 grams protein; 85 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 32 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 48 mg. cholesterol; 1,131 mg. sodium.


Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from "Spork-Fed" by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg, who write: The traditional version of this dish is known for its creamy, rich texture and its impact on your hips. Our Alfredo gives you the same fulfilled feelings without the side effects! Adding the cheese crisps makes this a delight to eat, because you get the crunch along with the creamy texture of the noodles. We like to toss in some greens whenever we get the chance, so throw in spinach, kale or chard for a boost of nutrients.

1 1/2 cups shredded vegan cheese (Spork recommends Daiya brand)

1 package (14-ounce) brown rice fettuccine

1 teaspoon neutral-tasting oil

3 tablespoons nondairy butter

2 large shallots, finely chopped

3 cups baby spinach, tightly packed

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or soy milk

1 cup soy milk creamer

2 cups cashews

3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for salting the pasta water

1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon light miso paste (non-barley)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

3 tablespoons arrowroot powder, plus 2 tablespoons water, whisked to form a slurry

1. Prepare the cheese crisps: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, then break into large uneven pieces to garnish the pasta.

2. While the cheese is baking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to the instructions on the package, generally 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and run the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again, and return to the pot, tossing with the oil to keep the pasta from sticking together. Set aside in a warm place.

3. Heat a shallow skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, then add the shallots, cooking until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove the shallots using a slotted spoon, leaving the butter in the pan. Set the shallots aside in a small bowl.

4. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook over medium heat until just wilted, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Toss the spinach with the fettuccine.

5. Prepare the alfredo sauce: In a blender or food processor, combine the almond or soy milk, creamer, cashews, sea salt, black pepper, miso, lemon juice, nutmeg, dry mustard and the cooked shallots. Blend until smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium heavy-bottom pot and heat over medium heat until warm, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the arrowroot slurry, whisking until the sauce thickens slightly, then remove from heat.

6. To serve, add sauce to fettuccine and spinach and toss to coat. Serve warm with one piece of cheese crisp per serving.

Each of 6 servings: 693 calories; 14 grams protein; 84 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fiber; 34 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 715 mg sodium.


Total time: 35 minutes, plus soaking time for the noodles

Servings: 2 to 3 as a main course, 4 to 6 as a side

Note: Chinese chives are significantly larger than Western chives, and their flat leaves have a delicate garlic, rather than onion, flavor. In Chinese and Southeast Asian markets, they are typically sold in 1-pound bundles. Vietnamese cooks treat them like a green vegetable, often cooking them with noodles.

1/2 pound medium dried flat rice noodles (banh pho)

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided

3 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into pea-sized pieces

1/3 pound ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound Chinese chives, bottom 1/2 inch trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths

2 or 3 limes, quartered

1. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let them soak until they are pliable and opaque, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and use kitchen scissors to cut them into 3- to 4-inch lengths.

2. To make the flavoring sauce, in a small bowl combine 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar, the fish sauce and water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

3. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry just until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the shrimp and pork and stir briefly to break up the meat. Sprinkle in the salt and remaining one-fourth teaspoon sugar. Keep stirring until the shrimp and pork have turned opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Chinese chives. Because there is so much food in the pan now, use 2 cooking utensils to stir and toss the ingredients, ensuring even exposure to the heat. (Think of tossing a big salad.)

4. When the chives have collapsed by one-third of their original volume, after about 3 minutes, add the noodles and combine well. When all of the ingredients are well combined, give the flavoring sauce a stir and pour over the mixture. Continue stirring and tossing 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the noodles and chives are soft and cooked.

5. Remove from the heat, squeeze 4 lime wedges (1 lime) over the noodles, and mix well to distribute the flavors. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately with the remaining lime wedges.

Each of 3 servings: 604 calories; 27 grams protein; 77 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 22 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 148 mg. cholesterol; 1,753 mg. sodium.

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