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Italian that does not involve wheat

I have a wheat allergy (not celiac), I can get away with making Italian at home by using rice pasta or making spelt versions of bread. I am having a hard time finding good Italian recipies that don't have pasta, bread or breadcrumbs in the recipe. I know there has to be some good options that don't have wheat but I am at a loss? Ideas?

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  1. Do you have any Italian cookbooks? Loads of Marcella Hazan wonderful fish and meat recipes that don't call for wheat products. Also, something that I like to do to reduce my "bad" carb intake is to put my favorite sauce on chicken cutlets. Sometimes I make a pastaless lasagna, using long strips of grilled vegetables in place of pasta.

    1. Rather than looking at pasta recipes check out risotto and polenta recipes, and even bean recipes.

      All 3 offer a starchy vehicles for ragus and other great italian flavors.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Brandon Nelson

        I second the polenta suggestion. It makes a great base for thick, stew-like chunky sauces.

      2. When eggplant is in season, I make a canneloni-like dish where I wrap the stuffing in long, thin slices of eggplant, put on the sauce and cheese, bake. It is very good. Make the sauce a little thicker than you would for the pasta version because there is a fair amount of liquid in the eggplant.

        I have also had a lasagne-like dish with eggplant or zucchini for the layers.

        1. What about gnudi, basically ravioli without the wrapper?

          1. In addition to the great suggestions folks have already posted, you can also make a pizza-like ligurian farinata using chickpea flour:


            I've cheated and made it on the stove rather than in the oven, before. The texture is different, but it's still delicious!

            I haven't found any rice-based pastas I like, but there are actually a few packaged corn-based pastas out there that more closely approximate the wheat versions. I'll try to post back with brand names, later.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              here's the corn-based pasta for you:


              fiorentini is the manufacturer

              1. re: cimui

                most recipes for gnocchi that i've come across have some flour for binding together the potato. possibly OP could use potato or another kind of non-wheat flour, though, like garbanzo bean.

                1. re: cimui

                  I have made squash gnocci with gluten free flour blend or you can make ricotta gnocci. The key is one without a lot of flour.

                  1. re: jsaimd

                    I've made ricotta gnocchi with soy flour with some success.

              2. Polenta! No wheat, and a great base for fabulous Italian sauces.

                1. Also Farro is a nice sub for wheat pasta.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      You're right- I incorrectly read the OP as a gluten thing, and my gluten-sensitive friends have had good success with lower gluten farro, but you are correct- it's still wheat, although "emmer wheat", non-hybridized, can be more easily tolerated... Apologies to the OP for any confusion.

                  1. If you can find an Italian cookbook that focuses on the northern half of the country, that's probably your best bet for recipes that use starches other than wheat.

                    Another starchy food that I don't think has been mentioned is gnocchi, which is usually (but not always) made with potatoes.

                    1. Can you have semolina? You can make pasta using semolina which is actually very traditional... I think some recipes call for part flour and part semolina, maybe you could make it part semolina and part rice flour... this might be more work than you're looking for though.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Adrienne

                        semolina is wheat, unfortunately

                      2. Serve with risotto, or rice, and spinach or potato gnocchi.
                        Cornish hens, Egg and Lemon chicken. Italian fried chicken there are lots of recipes!

                        1. you've gotten a lot of great suggestions here.

                          for recipes that use bread crumbs, try holgrain brown rice bread crumbs:


                          i don't know what i'd do without them!

                          you don't have to buy them online - i get mine at places like wild oats & natural food stores, although i've only ever found them in small bags, not that big plastic jug.

                          1. Here's a link with several pasta sub suggestions. I just had kelp noodles at a restaurant, and rather liked them.


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                              kelp noodles at a restaurant? really? i've been preparing them at home for several years, but i've never seen them on a menu!

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Yes, it was at the Chaco Canyon Cafe in Seattle.


                                They served them as a cold salad. How do you prepare them? And where do you find them?

                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                  cold salad tossed with a spicy homemade asian dressing.

                                  quick sauté with veggies, fresh herbs, plenty of cracked black pepper, & parmesan or nutritional yeast.

                                  stir-fried with the usual suspects.

                                  tons of possibilities.

                                  i do the same things with shirataki noodles [the plain yam flour ones, not the tofu ones]...oh, except as a cold salad, that would be nasty. shirataki have to be heated.

                                  i buy the kelp noodles at WFM and a couple of natural foods stores here in LA, and the shirataki noodles at japanese markets.

                            2. Arborio and other short grain rice...not the same as rice pasta. Barley?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                Barley has gluten, too;) But I guess if it's a wheat allergy, and not a celiac condition, barley might work;)

                              2. I love polenta too. I especially like Bob's Red Mill Coarse Ground Polenta, sometimes labeled corn grits.

                                Very versatile, polenta is. I've even had polenta lasagna. It was sausage and zuchinni, red peppers, onions, etc. sauteed and then layered with polenta and cheese and baked.

                                I like polenta with some cheese melted in, let is set up in slabs, then saute for a crisp crust. I like it with chicken, mushrooms and sage on top.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: scuzzo

                                  Pasticciata is also traditional Italian polenta dish, much like a lasagna: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                  I've also seen chestnut flour pasta on menus occasionally, but I'm not sure if it would be made of would be 100 % chestnut flour.

                                  Other Italian recipes without wheat would be soups & stews. Ribollita, minestrone, lentil and/or bean soups, etc. Rice balls and frittatas also wouldn't have any wheat.

                                  And all those famous secondi- vitello al limone, vitello saltimbocca, bistecca alla fiorentina,etc.

                                  1. re: phoenikia

                                    Ribollita is made with bread -- at least, the version I'm familar with is. But there are probably lots of different soups that are called "ribollita" (which just means "re-boiled," i.e. made from leftovers).

                                    But that gets at a basic principle of Italian cooking, which is that it's less about specific recipes than an attitude about food: use what you've got, treat it simply, and balance starches and proteins (usually by eating one after the other). So I don't feel any compunction against making substitutions in a recipe in order to use what I've got on hand.

                                    1. re: jlafler

                                      You're absolutely right that ribollita is made with bread. I was thinking about all the vegetables that go into it, and somehow forgot about the bread part;) I guess one could try using leftover cornbread if they were avoiding wheat;)

                                2. I am gluten intolerant (not celiac diagnosed) and for pasta, I like Tinkyada brown rice pasta best. It has less flavor that regular wheat flour, but the texture is good, and it will absorb the flavor of the sauce. But I do agree with the other replies that there is so much more to good italian cooking than pasta. I understand that it is good to be able to replace those basics in your diet, though, and not feel like you have to totally change the way you eat.