Coming from an Italian family, making the decision to go gluten-free was pretty rough. My first thought was that my family would not embrace it, but my second thought was of all the homemade pasta dishes I would be missing out on! My mother was born in Italy. So were all of her 8 brothers and sisters. Pasta for them is like a religion. It was hard at first, but the realization that I could keep my Crohn’s flare-ups away kept my mind in the right place.
My lovely Italian rooted family. They came from a small town in Calabria named Maida. My mother is on the left hand side looking into the camera. I was kinda there (she was pregnant with me).
When I decided to go gluten-free, I was pretty damn sick. I went to seek the advice from a friend of mine, Seth Pollins, who is the Food Specialist at Whole Foods. He suffers from IBS and I knew he’d have a trick or two up his sleeve. I walked into Whole Foods hunched over in pain, and he sat me down and told me to try a gluten-free lifestyle. **Crickets** I stared at him in disbelief. How could I do that? No way!
I stuttered, “I don’t know if I can!” Seth just looked at me and asked matter-of –factly, “Why the f**k not?” I sat there, dumbfounded. Yeah, why the f**k couldn’t I? “Ok. Let’s do this.” I replied with a gleam in my eye. Seth then took his time and walked me around Whole Foods pointing out products that will be beneficial to me. Walking around the market with Seth lit a fire inside of me; this is what I needed. I will be grateful to Seth for an eternity.
Now to the hard part, explaining my new choice of lifestyle to my mother. I walked into her home (still hunched) and she looks at me with worry in her eyes. I sit her down and explain the gluten-free way. I finally finished talking and her words were, “Let’s do this.” I cried that day. A lot. I knew this was a turning point in my life and I had my mom, my very best friend, on my side.
It is almost 2 years later and I am still gluten-free and going strong but I am still learning. I omit foods, I add them in…trial and error. I have learned through time that grain-free and legume free helps me the most, but things could change over time.
So, in honor of my beloved pasta that I miss so much, here is a recipe for Zucchini Ribbons with My Mother’s Bolognese sauce:
2 Tsp butter or ghee
2 zucchini or 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash
Sea Salt and Pepper
1 carrot, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
1 onion, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 pound organic ground meat (beef, turkey, pork..whatever you prefer)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
2 (32-ounce) cans organic San Marzano whole tomatoes that have been run through food mill (or get crushed)
**in the summer, I jar tomatoes and if you do, 2 jars milled will be great here, as well.
Sea salt and pepper.
1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and saute until the vegetables are dry and soft. Add meat and brown.
2. Add the red wine and bay leaves.
3. Add tomatoes and about 1 cup of water after rinsing the cans or jars.
4. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer and let cook for 1 and 1/2 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
5. When the sauce is almost done, heat a skillet and add the butter or ghee.
6. With a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini and squash lengthwise. Stop when get to seeds. Saute ribbons in the butter and make sure you have enough butter to coat the ribbons. Add more if need be.
7. Cook the zucchini ribbons until just done but do not brown. They still need to have a bite to them.
8. Pour ribbons in a serving platter and add as much of the Bolognese you wish and toss together.
My mother taught me about the power of inspiration and courage, and she did it with a strength and passion that I wish could be bottled. ~ Carly Fiorina