More from this week: Gluten-free Pasticcio di pasta al ragu’ with béchamel sauce, and pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies

Last Thursday afternoon I was on a roll. I had the afternoon free, so I stopped at the local health food market and got some nice ground beef. By the time I got home 10 minutes later, I had it all planned out: for dinner, pasticcio di pasta al ragu’ – pasta casserole with ragu sauce!

Then, since I had some pumpkin leftover from my pumpkin cake – and I do hate to throw away food – I got inspired and decided to use it in a snickerdoodle cookie. I baked them while preparing the pasticcio, just in time for my kids’ snack. The cookies were a hit, even if they didn’t look as I expected; I am still a professional baker in my head, and I want my baked goods to look perfect…

Gluten-free Pasticcio di Pasta al Ragu
Since I had started my gluten-free diet, I had missed many things, and among them was a béchamel sauce. It’s such a smooth sauce, that envelops ingredients in a creamy embrace, without overpowering their flavors. Béchamel sauce is one of the main ingredients of lasagna, and, yes, it requires flour. I thought I would not taste it again, but then, one day, I came up with my gluten-version of it. And it was good .

The ragu’ I made was an easy version: no soffritto – chopped onions, carrots and celery, and no white wine to wet the beef before adding the tomatoes. Though, since the ragu’, pasta, béchamel sauce, and cheese would be mixed together and baked for 30 minutes, I wondered, would we really miss the carrots, celery, and wine? I decided, no. So here we go.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of it, but rest assured that it was beautiful and, oh, so tasty! My children ate the gluten-free version, without skipping a beat.

For the ragu’
Onion                   1 medium, chopped
Garlic                   3 cloves, minced
Olive Oil              1 Tablespoon
Ground beef       2 lb
Tomato Puree    one 28oz can – I used Muir Glen Organic
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saute’ pan, and add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, careful not to burn them. Add the ground beef and break it down, browning it slightly. Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper, and cover. Let it simmer for 1.5 hours, mixing now and then.

For the gluten-free béchamel sauce
Butter                                1/4 cup (50 gr)
Simona’s flour mix         1/3 cup (50 gr)
Whole milk                      2 cups (500 ml)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan – or in the microwave, until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1/4 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil and cook 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside until ready to use. Confession: sometimes I get distracted while cooking the béchamel sauce, and it gets lumpy. So, I take my immersion blender and give it a swirl, until the lumps disappear. I feel that Mario Batali might cringe if he read this, but Julia Child would just nod and smile.

Preheat your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook 2 boxes of Shar gluten-free pasta, for the amount of time indicated on the box – I used penne. Drain the pasta and mix with the ragu’ and the béchamel sauce. Pour it in a 9×13 baking dish, and sprinkle the top with 8 oz of grated mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until the top is nicely browned, and the sauces start to bubble.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies – makes 18 cookies

Butter                            6 Tablespoons (3 oz), softened
Pumpkin Puree           1/2 cup (4 oz)
Granulated sugar        1/2 cup (3.5 oz)
Brown sugar                 1/2 cup (4oz)
Eggs                               2 large
Simona’s flour mix     2 cups (11 oz)
Cream of tartar           2 teaspoons
Baking soda                 1 teaspoon
Salt                                1/4 teaspoon
For rolling
Granulated sugar       1/4 cup (1.75 oz)
Cinnamon                    1 Tablespoon

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, the sugars, and the pumpkin puree until it’s smooth. Mix in the eggs one at a time. My eggs and the pumpkin puree were cold so the mixture looked a little grainy. Don’t worry, it all smooths out once you add the dry ingredients.


In a separate bowl, stir together flour, tartar, baking soda, and salt. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Mix it to combine.


In a small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon. With a medium cookie scoop, if you have it, or with a tablespoon, measure out the dough. Roll the cookie dough into a ball and then roll it in the sugar mixture. Place the rolled cookie on the baking sheet. Use a  glass bottom to flatten the cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes until they are slightly puffed and golden brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool before serving.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. mbreuer183 says:

    Hi Simona, I love that you’ll be blogging on some savory dishes! Mike is pre-diabetic, as you may know, and greatly reducing sweets from his diet has been a necessary thing. (He allows himself one dessert a week.) Plus, I’d love to use some of your Italian recipes. Ciao!! Love, Cara

    1. Hi Cara! I will remember to post more savory recipes: my mom makes a wonderful onion tart, that I am sure you’d enjoy. More to come

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