Vichenzo Sin Tacc

Last year, I made my bi-annual pilgrimage to Buenos Aires – also known as the Europe of the south. This beautiful, hectic city was my home for almost three years in my twenties and will continue to draw me back every so often, not least because some of my bestest friends in the world live there. A huge part of my time in Argentina revolved around food – cuisine which is traditionally gluten-heavy. Yes, steak is the main act but when Argentines aren’t eating steaks, they’re usually tucking into amazing fresh pastas and milanesas – a tradition passed down from the Italian community that settled there at the turn of the 20th century. So, returning to this city has often made me nervous, for obvious gluten-related reasons.

What I discovered upon returning was a complete surprise however. The city’s gluten free scene in the last three years has totally exploded, with a long list of 100% gluten free eateries and bakeries sprouting up in multiple areas. Luckily for us, that explosion includes the 100% gluten free bakery and pasta factory Vichenzo, tucked away in the Montserrat neighbourhood, which is a hop skip and a jump from Avenida de Julio.

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Vichenzo opened its doors to the public in October 2015, primarily as a pasta producer. “The original idea was to create a high quality and delicious product that would, in addition, be gluten free and safe for coeliacs or those intolerant to gluten,” Vichenzo co-founder Gaston told me. “We saw the gluten free market as a challenge, and one that would make us grow,” Gaston said. The pair therefore put their learnings from their pasta maestro and store namesake Vicente Fabiz to use and created a range of fresh, gluten free pastas using traditional methods and machinery. The range of traditional pastas on offer in store quickly expanded beyond spaghetti and gnocchi to delights including spinach tagliatelle, beetroot ravioli, salmon casoncelli and more. Today, the store acts also as a bakery, offering a huge array of fresh bread, pastries, cakes and beyond.

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“Many of our products came about because of what particular customers requested of us and they became permanent,” Gaston said, who told me when I visited the store that the store’s only enemy is time and the limitations that it creates. The duo have successfully overcome the trials and tribulations of creating gluten free dough for their pastas and pizzas. However, as everyone and anyone gluten free will know, this is a science, given that a change in the humidity of a kitchen or the slight over-pour of an ingredient can leave the dough unusable. Having tried and tested a multitude of the store’s offerings I can vouch for Vichenzo and the success it has had in creating top notch gluten free products, not least the ready-made pasta dishes and fresh Milanesa sandwiches on crusty bread that you can take to go and eat right then and there in the street.

Discovering that neither Gaston nor Pablo were themselves gluten free makes the story of Vichenzo all the more exciting. In my experience, gluten free businesses come about because of health issues in the owners or founders themselves and so having the opportunity to visit a shop where gluten free is just considered normal in the eyes of two non coeliacs really was an eye opener. Luckily for the people of Buenos Aires, Vichenzo will continue to grow as a business. While plans are still not finalized, it looks possible that the north of the city could be home to a new shop in the future. In the meantime, those reading this from outside of Argentina: get on a plane to Buenos Aires and head straight to Vichenzo. You will not be sorry and I can say with confidence you will never have had a gluten free experience like it!

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Vichenzo Sin Tacc (Closed on Sundays)
Salta 529
C1074 Buenos Aires
Argentina

Lasagne d’Almagro

A piece of my heart will forever be in Buenos Aires – a vibrant, hectic and culturally rich city where I spent almost three years during my twenties. Beyond traditional dishes like Argentine steak and empanadas, much of the country’s cuisine was brought and developed by Italian immigrants who arrived there en masse from the 1850s onwards. A favourite dish of mine was always lasagne, prepared in its own Argentine way and featuring the smoky taste of aji molido (smoked red pepper powder) and black olives which add a natural saltiness and depth to the dish.

After becoming gluten free, I quickly released that coming across a lasagne that was safe for me to eat – in my Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Almagro and beyond – was a rare luxury, not only due to the pasta but also the stock used in the sauce. So, in honour of Coeliac Awareness Week, I have recreated this dish to make it safe for coeliacs to enjoy with friends and family. Thanks to Knorr, who create the best tasting and fuss-free stock I have ever had, this dish is bursting with flavour and completely gluten free. Knorr has been a household name ever since I remember, and I am pleased to shout about its efforts for the gluten free community. Be sure to enjoy this dish with some homemade garlic bread and a glass of strong bodied Malbec for the true Argentine experience.

Lasagne d’Almagro
(Serves 6)

Ingredients

For the Lasagne Filling:
1 x White Onion (Finely Chopped)
4 x Garlic Cloves
2 x Celery Sticks (Finely Chopped)
1 x Large Carrot (Finely Chopped)
800g Chopped Tomatoes in Juice
500g Lean Minced Beef
400g Gluten Free Sausage Meat or Sausages (Casing Removed)
160g Drained Black Olives
1 x Tablespoon Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock
2 x Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 x Cup Red Wine
½ x Cup Boiling Water
2 x Bay Leaves
½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
½ x Tablespoon Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce
1 x Teaspoon Aji Molido
250g Gluten Free Lasagne Sheets
300g Fresh Mozzarella (Diced)
100g Parmesan (Grated)

For the Béchamel Sauce:
1 x Tablespoon Butter
1 x White Onion
3 x Cups Milk
3 x Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour
1 x Cup White Wine
½ x Knorr Vegetable Stock Cube
½ x Teaspoon Nutmeg
Pepper

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a shallow pan over moderate heat. Add the beef and sausage meat to the pan and cook until brown (around 8 minutes), stirring occasionally and at the same time breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.
  2. Meanwhile, take a separate, good sized cooking pot and warm the rest of the oil over moderate heat before adding the chopped onion, celery, carrot and whole peeled garlic cloves. Stir until all vegetables are soft, taking care to not burn the onion.
  3. Turn attention back to the meat once cooked through and drain fat. Then add beef to the vegetables, stirring through to make sure all vegetables are evenly dispersed throughout the mixture.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives, wine and boiling water to the pot. Stir well.
  5. Now add the Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock, along with the gluten free Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, dried basil and aji molido before stirring again and leaving to simmer for 30 minutes with a splatter guard covering the top of the pot. This will help the mixture cook down and also protect your surfaces!
  6. While your lasagne mixture is cooking, start preparing the béchamel by sautéing the finely chopped onion in butter over moderate heat in a medium saucepan.
  7. When onion is soft, add milk and let the milk almost come to boil (but not quite!) before removing from heat and whisking in the flour. Whisk vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, nutmeg and crumbled Knorr vegetable stock cube and using a hand blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
  8. Return béchamel to heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. The sauce will still be fairly thin and pale in colour. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add 1 teaspoon of flour and whisk again. However, the consistency should not put you off – it blends beautifully with the lasagne filling during the baking process.
  9. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and start arming your lasagne.
  10. Take a medium sized lasagne dish and create layers: after removing bay leaves, ladle in one spoon of the meat mixture and smooth out to cover bottom of dish, then lay down lasagne sheets (I tend to use three sheets per layer).
  11. On top of the lasagne sheets, drizzle one ladle of béchamel sauce and smooth out to just about cover the sheets before adding an even sprinkling of fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves on top. Repeat, leaving enough béchamel to cover the entire top layer which will then be dusted in grated parmesan cheese.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until evenly golden brown.
  13. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving and garnish with more fresh basil and mixed leaves.