Hi, friends! Dare I say that spring is finally starting to pop up, showing signs of its beauty here and there? I spotted some gorgeous deep purple crocus pushing through the newly thawed ground this past weekend at our local library. Although, I got in my car this morning to drive the kiddos to school and there was frost on my window. Ugh! Nevertheless, I am feeling so inspired to create lightened up, seasonally fresh recipes for all of you to enjoy, so stay tuned!
Last night, the kids asked for macaroni and cheese. We rarely — like hardly ever — buy the boxed macaroni and cheese in our house because of all the chemicals that are in the powdered cheese, so I decided to make it for them from scratch (soooo much better if you’ve never tried it!) and of course, I made it gluten free so I could enjoy a scoopful (or two!) of it too. Boy, am I glad that I did so that I could share this ridiculously easy recipe with all of you. This will easily become your new go-to mac and cheese recipe; it’s so easy to make and I love that it can be enjoyed by both adults and kids alike. I’d also like to point out that if you desire, you can always add lobster or crabmeat to the mixture before it goes into the oven, which is a nice way to take a no-fuss recipe and elevate it for company or an adults-only gathering. Here are a few of my Cook’s Notes:
- I happened to find gluten free pasta shells made by Delallo at the health food store, but any type of short pasta will work fine. I highly recommend using a gluten free pasta brand that you know will hold its shape, otherwise you’ll be left with a mushy, starchy dish instead of nice chunks of pasta enrobed in cheese. Nobody wants that! If you’re not worried about keeping the dish gluten free, this recipe can be made with regular pasta.
- Using freshly grated cheese is obviously the best way to go, but in a pinch or if you’re making this on a weeknight, you can definitely use the pre-shredded cheese that comes in a bag. Just be sure that your cheese doesn’t contain wheat starch/gluten, which is sometimes used to coat the cheese as an anti-caking agent. I usually use Sargento brand, which I know is gluten free and always fresh! For this recipe, I happened to have the Sargento Italian Blend and some mozzarella in my fridge, so that’s what I used. But, you can use any cheese that your family likes. Cheddar always works well, and I also really love fontina.
- To make the roux, I suggest using straight white rice flour, like Bob’s Red Mill. The rule of thumb for any roux is typically a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour. I don’t recommend using a gluten free flour blend, which may result in a roux that’s too gummy since there are so many other ingredients and gums added to the flour blends. Again, if you’re not making the recipe gluten free, use regular all-purpose flour. The same ratio applies.
- If you’re adding seafood, make sure that the seafood is fully cooked before adding it to the pasta and cheese mixture.
- I served this family-style in a gratin dish, but if you’re serving it for a cocktail party, spooning the mixture into ramekins or small gratin dishes is a festive way to serve and present it.
This is the pasta that I used. It held its shape beautifully!
Now for the recipe…
Gluten Free Baked Mac N' Cheese
- 1 12-ounce bag of gluten free pasta shells, like Delallo brand
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the gratin dish
- 4 level Tbsp. of white rice flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- About 3 cups of shredded cheese (I used Sargento Italian Blend and mozzarella)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Gluten free panko breadcrumbs
- Step 1 Cook the pasta, shortening the cooking time a bit so the pasta is very al’ dente.
- Step 2 Drain the pasta in the sink using a colander and rinse it well with cold water. Let drain while you prepare the roux.
- Step 3 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Step 4 Butter the gratin dish and set aside. For this amount, I used a dish that was a bit smaller than 9 x 13.
- Step 5 In the bottom of a non-stick pot or deep pan, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and just begins to foam, add the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Whisk the flour into the butter briskly, being careful not to let it burn. Over medium heat, cook the roux for 3 minutes. This ensures that you don’t get the taste of raw flour in your finished dish. Note that the rice flour may turn a reddish color once cooked, this is normal. Whisk often.
- Step 6 Pour in the milk and whisk constantly. The mixture will begin to thicken up. Season with black pepper, to taste. I don’t add salt since the cheese is salty.
- Step 7 If the mixture isn’t getting thick, add a little bit more flour.
- Step 8 Once it’s thick, add in the cheese and shut the heat. Mix the cheese into the milk mixture until it’s melted.
- Step 9 If your pot is big enough, you can add the cooked pasta right into the milk/cheese mixture and stir. Otherwise, combine it all in a large bowl. Stir gently, ensuring that the cheese coats all of the pasta.
- Step 10 Spread the pasta mixture into the buttered gratin dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with a good handful of the panko crumbs, then a few turns of black pepper, and finally, a sprinkle of paprika.
- Step 11 Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the top is golden brown.
- Step 12 Serve immediately or allow it to rest for several minutes. Store any leftovers in a container in the fridge.