How To Dine Italian and Still Be Gluten-Free

Throughout my life, I am sure I ate more gluten than is healthy. The words “gluten-free” were not in my vocabulary. I remember those peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches every day of my college years. Some Marshmallow Fluff is probably still sticking to my ribs.

I had never heard of celiac disease and could never imagine going through life without pasta, bread, and other foods containing wheat, not to mention a lemon filled donut every now and then.

Now we are in another century where eating gluten-free has become a lifestyle or a necessity.  There is no treatment for celiac disease other than a specific diet. Those who are choosing it as a lifestyle have some healthy guidelines to observe.  Folks who follow the diet claim weight loss, extra energy, and overall well-being.

A Personal Story

Very recently, I have had a bout with an undetermined condition which is extremely uncomfortable. I have been struggling with terrible symptoms for about a year now.

Several physicians have given me the same diagnosis and treatment plan. I followed what the doctors have suggested, but the result has been less than satisfactory.

Diagnosis Correct

The diagnosis, I believe, is correct. It is the treatment that has not worked. A brilliant little nutrition major (Kimmy) suggested that I give up gluten.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think that it would make much difference. Guess what, it has been almost two weeks and my symptoms have all but disappeared.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is found in grains specifically wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (somewhere between wheat and rye).

By the Way: Pure chocolate is gluten-free. Read the label for any chocolate product less than pure. Recall our previous post on chocolate. Read now.

Diseases Associated with Gluten

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Gluten is the villain because its presence in the body triggers a reaction from the immune system that irritates the lining of the small intestine. After a while, the system becomes unable to absorb nutrients.

Gluten sensitivity causes uncomfortable symptoms (abdominal pain, headache, bloating, diarrhea, foggy brain, rash) but does not damage the tissues of the small intestines.

Gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disorder that causes problems with muscle control.

Wheat allergy prompts the immune system to react to gluten as if it were a disease-causing factor, for example, bacteria or a virus.

How To Tell If a Product Is Gluten Free

Look at the label. The FDA commands labeling products, so if you see the FDA label, it is gluten-free.

Important: If a product has a “Wheat Free” label, that does not mean it is gluten-free.

Check for ingredients like:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)

These ingredients means the product is NOT gluten-free

Note: Those on a gluten-free diet can have alcohol. Remember to carefully read the labels. These safe alcohol products must carry the gluten-free label. The alcohol products include:

  • Wines fermented from grapes or other fruit
  • Distilled spirits distilled from materials other than gluten


The following recipes are completely gluten-free and, I might add, very delicious.

Chicken with Zoodles - gluten-free

In this versatile recipe, cook the chicken on a grill or sear it in a pan.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian, Mediterranean
Servings 4
Calories 300 kcal


  • 4 boneless chicken breasts pound them down.
  • ¼ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 12-ounce package gluten-free spaghetti
  • 3 medium-size zucchini or 1 package zoodles (produce department)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 dollop honey
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tbsp. pesto
  • 2 tbsp. sun- dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup Pitted Calamata olives halved
  • Chopped fresh basil


  • Place chicken in sealable bag. Whisk to combine and pour marinade over chicken.
  • Make a marinade by combining ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp. prepared mustard, a dollop of honey, juice of 2 lemons in a mixing bowl.
  • Squish it around in the bag every now and then. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil in the water. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta water and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, remove chicken from the marinade.
    If you are grilling, heat grill on high. Place chicken on grill and cook for 7-8 minutes. Flip chicken and cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until completely cooked through.
    OR (I do not own a grill.)
    Cook the chicken breasts in a frying pan (about 6 minutes). It is better if you pound the chicken before you marinate it.
  • Trim the ends of the zucchini and use a spiralizer to create noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons or buy premade zoodles.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a high-rimmed skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini noodles and sauté while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add drained pasta to the skillet and combine. Then add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pesto, and stir to combine.
  • Slice chicken into strips and add to the noodles and zoodles mixture. Toss to combine and serve. Garnish with basil leaves.


This dish pairs nicely with Sauvignon Blanc. Best choice - Napa Valley Fume Blanc. 
Keyword chicken, main dish, zoodles
avocado and chickpea salad

Avocado and Chickpea Salad with Spring Greens and Fresh Mozzarella

The ingredients in this summer salad taste fresh for a lunch or a dinner on a hot day.
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 12 ounces Romaine lettuce
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 avocados diced
  • 1 English cucumber sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes diced
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large serving bowl, combine greens, chickpeas, avocado, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, create the dressing. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice and oregano.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Keyword glutin-free
gluten-free biscotti

Gluten-free Italian Biscotti

This recipe is gluten free and yummy.
Calories 140 kcal


  • 2 1/2 cups organic gluten free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 tsp double acting baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp extra fine pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup roasted & chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 3 large pasture raised eggs
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil or oil of choice
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract; Omit and use extract of choice or 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp zest of lemon or orange


  • Bring eggs to room temperature
  • Toast nuts & cool. Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet at 325 F 10-15 minutes.
  • Roughly chop nuts to desired size.
  • Zest a lemon
  • Move oven rack to center
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place unbleached parchment on baking sheet and grease/spray lightly.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.
  • Whisk in nuts and dried cranberries . Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, extracts and zest.
  • Add flour mixture to wet mixture and thoroughly combine with a heavy spoon.
  • Scoop out the dough into two even logs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape dough with wet hands into two smooth logs. Leave about 4 inches between each log, and keep the height of each log at about 1.5″.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool the entire pan on a cooling rack for 30 min to 1 hour.
  • Move logs, one at a time, to a cutting board. Cut cookies at an angle or straight, 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick.
    Note: Take care to use a side to side rocking motion with the knife to make the job easier with less crumbling.
  • Remove from oven and cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled. Cookies stay delicious when stored for several days on the counter or frozen for up to a month.

Final Thought

I did live gluten-free for a while. It is a commitment because you must stock your pantry with gluten-free ingredients.

If it is a necessity due to health concerns, gluten-free is a great eating plan. The food is tasty and the sacrifices are minimal. Here is a list of naturally gluten-free foods. Read now.

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