Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Better Than Chef Boyardi

A big part of the reason I've dropped 135 pounds in a year's time is the fact that I'm gluten-free...and I avoid cow dairy (notice I didn't commit to saying I never eat cheese?) This means I eat as though I'm celiac and lactose intolerant even though I'm neither. I adopted these changes at the urging of my fitness guru, Diamond Dallas Page ( There was some initial resistance on my part (especially where dairy was concerned). And yes, I still miss cheese sometimes. You know, little things like the way it oozes across my tongue when it's melted and warm. But the fact is, I'm down 12 sizes, so it's kind of a fair trade.

Spaghetti I crave occasionally, and when I do, I thank GOD for the creation of Rice Pasta, which is actually quite good if it's cooked properly. So when I get the urge for that canned semolina indulgence from childhood, I know exactly what to do. Did you know that unlike the fictitious Betty Crocker, there actually was a chef named for that line of cans filled with unspeakably mushy pasta? The guy's name was Ettore Boiardi. He emigrated from Italy at age 16 and immediately launched into a cooking career. According to his story, the spaghetti and sauce he served at his restaurants were legendary and demand eventually drove him into factory production (and the phonetic spelling of his name). And we all know how far south the quality went. I'm not saying the stuff didn't taste good. Man, some of my most memorable binges involved family sized cans of his ravioli, microwaved and blanketed with slices of American cheese and eaten in a semi-conscious state in front of a 'Bewitched' rerun. Those were the days.

But with the passage of time has come the evolution of my pallate. Which has resulted in a nouveau version of the stuff I grew up on.

Aside from using rice pasta, what makes this recipe different is cooking the pasta risotto-style. When you do this, the starch from the pasta doesn't leach out into the boiling water and eventually poured down the drain. Once you cook pasta this way you'll probably never want to go back to boiling. It's a little more time-consuming but worth it. I hope wherever Ettore Boiardi is now, he's proud:

Risotto-Style Rice Pasta with Marinara
1 pound rice spaghetti
1 large can of tomato juice
1 32-ounce can tomato sauce
2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
Grated sheep's milk peccorino cheese

Pour the tomato juice into a large sauce pan and cover, heating on medium heat until bubbling. While juice is heating, break spaghetti into 3-4 inch sections. (Cooking pasta risotto-style requires pasta that's already small, ie, penne, or made small by breaking. Too much stirring involved). Add the oil to the juice and stir, followed by the broken spaghetti. Continue stirring until the pasta softens. Eventually, most of the liquid will absorb into the pasta. If you like a generous backdrop of sauce, add all or part of the can of tomato sauce. Continue stirring often or else the pasta will stick together (I find rice pasta to be gummier than semolina). When thoroughly heated, serve and sprinkle with peccorino.

Bon Apetit!

By the way, I still can't hear Elizabeth Montgomery's voice without getting a Chef BoyArDee craving. Thank God ravioli was as hardcore as it got for me.


  1. Stacey! I was a TOTAL Chef Boyardi Fan - Spaghetti with LOTS of butter! I actually tried it a few years ago. Needless to say, it didn't measure up to my childhood memory. I remember the TV ad as a child - Italian kids playing on cobblestoned streets - the noontime bells start ringing and all the kids come together for a feast on Chef Boyardi spaghetti. That ad made me want to travel to Italy.
    Thanks for the background story on the real Chef. Fascinating!

  2. very interesting, stacey! i wasn't aware that a rice spaghetti even existed, but it looks exactly like that ol' wheat stuff. the sauce sounds terrific too. excellent way to meet your pasta cravings. :)

  3. Very funny and interesting! Tried the rice pasta in the past. This blog makes me want to revisit it. Even though I am 100% italian, Chef Boyardi raviolis were occasional indulgence in our home growing up.

  4. Looks yummy! I'll have to give it a try...

  5. Hi Stacey - I've used the penne rice pasta in a meat/chopped spinach/goat cheese/salsa kind of recipe and it wasn't bad. Maybe I'll have to try the spaghetti next!

  6. I've never heard of rice spaghetti or tried sheep cheese but it looks worth trying! Thanks for the new idea!

  7. Stacey,
    I love your recipes and the inspiration that you provide. I truly hope others "listen" when you speak as you have been there and know what it takes. You have given me such wonderful life on substitutes as I too have went GF/DF/Wheat free although I didn't need to. Such great information from a great person and a fellow YRG family member.

  8. Stacey I love your blog... Angie made some Amazing Buffalo Eggplant with Seeds of Change (the sauce with no sugar that tastes great) tonight that I put over some rice pasta and graded up some sheep cheese... Wow! YOU would have loved it... Like you I am not a celiac but I choose to be wheat and dairy free because I like YOU I feel UNSTOPPABLE because of it! Keep spreading your gospel and keep living by eXample...
    YRG 4 LIFE

  9. What an interesting cooking method - seems like it would solve the problem of tasteless pasta! With the dietary substitutions you make, does it give you more leeway on portion sizes?

  10. Believe me, Anonymous, this does solve the tasteless pasta problem. As for portion sizes, that's a good question. Eating g-free and cow-dairy-free does allow a little more lateral freedom as far as quantity goes - and so does exercise. You've just inspired me to go more in-depth into this issue, so look for a future blog on this soon. Thanks for reading!