The secret behind Britain’s top pasta chef winning dish? It is vegan and gluten free | gluten free

wSauces, textures, and flavors vary almost endlessly. For hundreds of years, the best pastas have been bound together by one key ingredient: gluten. But the venerable pasta Antonio Alderuccio is different.

Catching uncooked, yellow, tubular prouds Patchery In his London kitchen, he listed two ingredients – rice and corn, both of which do not contain gluten.

After years of perfecting his recipe and method, he has not only attracted a loyal following at his gluten-free vegan restaurant, Plant Club in Newington Green, but the respect of the Italian culinary establishment.

In a landmark moment for Italian cuisine in the UK, it was his Patchery The dish, with zucchini sauce, asparagus, burella (a vegetarian alternative to burrata) and gluten-free croutons, earned him the title of British Pasta Chef of the Year from the Federation of Italian Chefs (FIC).

It’s the first time that gluten-free pasta, which is usually seen as tastefully inferior, has won the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Foods (PAPA) award. The judges, including Chef Theo Randall, said they blew them away.

Award winning patchiri with zucchini sauce, asparagus, burrilla and bread crumbs.

Randall, who serves fine Italian cuisine at his restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel in Mayfair, said he thought they’d already found their winner before tasting Alderuccio’s dish, but he quickly changed his mind.

It made me think ‘wow.’ Praising its texture, lightness and spiciness, the British chef said, ‘I wasn’t even thinking about it being gluten-free and the fact that it’s vegan.

“It was amazing, to be honest, absolutely amazing. The dish was beautifully made, looked beautiful and tasted really good.”

Randall, whose late mother had celiac, said he always served gluten-free pasta at his restaurant, but not all chefs have embraced gluten-free cooking. “There’s a little bit of condescension about it. But everyone gets around to the idea that actually, yeah, you have to internalize it.”

Sitting under the ceilings of windows at a green marble table, fresh produce from Italy and the UK waiting in crates on the counter, Alderuccio, 34, told his secret. Patchery It was rice flour. And instead of using broken grains, he uses ground risotto rice which he says works like magic as a binding agent.

He said the winning dish was inspired by the “transition between the two seasons” from summer to fall.

Alderuccio's vegan pizza
Alderuccio aims to enter vegan pizza, above, at the World Championships in Naples next March.

His victory was greeted with curiosity from his competitors in the competition, he said, adding that it was difficult for them to compromise on a gluten-free vegan dish, which he believes some consider second-rate.

Other pasta items that he serves in his restaurant include trophy3mm thick spirals of pasta he serves with kale pesto, chili flakes, vegan garlic cream and parmesan – made from a mixture of corn, sorghum, potato starch, water and guar gum.

But the future, he says, lies in being gluten-free Bucatini, a spaghetti-like noodle with a hole in the middle, with which he plans to make lewd dishes. It is also developing a vegan, gluten-free product which he says will be ready next year.

Next, he wants to introduce gluten-free, vegan pizza—inspired by the style of Italian chef Franco Pepe – at the World Pizza Championships in Naples in March.

While gluten-free Italian food is often met with skepticism in the UK – despite 1% of people suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, and awareness of gluten intolerance – Aldrocio says it is “thriving” in Italy. In his hometown, Syracuse in Sicily, he said that a popular pastry shop now serves gluten-free desserts and that several Neapolitan restaurants now serve gluten-free pizza.

Lots of Italian staples — including polenta, risotto and gnocchi — can be gluten-free, but historically they weren’t promoted as such, said Carmelo Carnevale, president of the Italian Culinary Federation and judge for the pasta competition.

Alderuccio, who moved to the UK eight years ago, began exploring gluten-free, vegan cooking five years ago when he met a friend who had celiac and diabetes, which made going out to dinner nearly impossible. Bored at work and looking for a new challenge, he began experimenting with vegan, gluten-free cooking, and in 2019, he co-founded his previous venture, Plant Hub.

During the pandemic, he invested in a pizza oven, began testing gluten-free and vegan pizza recipes on his friends and began developing gluten-free pasta with producers in Italy. The recipes he created ended up forming the basis for his new restaurant, Plant Club, which is currently operating as a pop-up, and began to gain traction. When he was invited to participate in the FIC pasta competition, he was thrilled.

Enzo Oliveri, president of the Confederation of Italian Chefs in the UK who has been judging the competition for seven years, said Aldruccio’s win marked a defining moment in Italian cuisine.

“I’ve never heard of a gluten-free pasta winning a competition of this nature,” he said, calling Aldrocio “a master” and praising the “amazing” pasta.

While he initially said he was skeptical about the dish’s appearance, the judges were “shocked” by its quality and he ended up beating some of Britain’s best pasta chefs to win the award. Serving gluten-free pasta is challenging for restaurants because of the potential for cross-contamination, Oliveri said, but any barriers for chefs are “psychological.” He added that Alderuccio’s success has now raised the bar to a level he hopes others will have to try to compete with.

He said gluten-free cooking is worth caring for. “We have to give her the taste she deserves.”

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