Thursday, September 2, 2010

Celia's Gluten-Free Mac N' Cheese

(a wee guest post from our chef-in-residence)

Hi all,

So, I'm sure that those of you who've been reading ESB for a while know that she isn't exactly best friends with Mr. Gluten. I gave her a modified recipe for my mac n' cheese, and since she has some gluten intolerant readers out there, she asked me to share it with you as well. I'm usually not a fan of switching up recipes because you lose so much of what the dish is really about, but this one is definitely a winner in my book. (On that note, if you're lactose intolerant, you should probably skip the whole mac n' cheese pipe dream all together and go make yourself some tacos or something.)

Gluten-Free Mac N' Cheese

16 oz. pasta
4 cups heavy cream
(roughly) 1 1/2 cups cheese

First, cook your pasta to al dente, drain and set aside. Yes, I know you can't eat regular pasta... BUT you can use rice pasta which they sell at every Trader Joe's across the country. I also came across this corn pasta at a local gourmet shop the other day, and although I have not tried it, I think it's safe to say it would work just as well. Don't feel restricted to just elbows either. Rotelli, ribbed penne and shells are all lovely choices for mac n' cheese too. As far as portions go, I would say that one 16 oz. package of pasta is enough for four healthy servings.

Next up is making the bechamel. Traditional bechamel requires flour, but I came across a cream sauce by Ina Garten a few years ago that only uses cream. Keep in mind that you MUST use heavy cream for this technique, or it will not work. No cutting corners with half & half, or SOY MILK for fuck's sake. You're making mac n' cheese here, which in no way goes hand in hand with counting calories, mkay? As I was saying, put 4 cups of heavy cream in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Keep the cream at a boil for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will see that it will slowly start to thicken and become the consistency of a very smooth and silky cream sauce.

Now it's time to add the cheese (hooray!). Once your sauce has come to the perfect consistency, take it off of the heat. I've found that mixing the cheese in while it's still on the burner often leads to the sauce separating. Which is totally fine, it's just doesn't make for an attractive looking sauce. I like to use a combination of cheddar, parmesan and chevre* for my mac, and honestly, I do this completely to taste. I find the cheddar makes the sauce rich, the parmesan adds flavor, and the chevre gives it an unexpected kick. You can use whichever cheeses you'd like, but I think three different ones is best. I would use about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of all the cheeses combined for each cup of cream sauce (you want it cheesy, don't you?). Slowly whisk them in until melted and fully incorporated. If the sauce starts to cool and it's not melting the cheese very well, put it back on the burner for a minute just to bring the heat back up. Taste your sauce and season to taste.

Toss the sauce with your pasta over low-medium heat to bring it all back up to temperature. You can serve it like this or put it in a baking dish, top with gluten-free bread crumbs, and bake until golden and bubbly.

OPTIONAL: I toss in roasted garlic, halved grape tomatoes and baby arugula to my mac. For some reason, it makes me feel better about eating something that is VERY bad for me. I've also come across versions that incorporate peas, mushrooms, or chopped up bacon... all of which are so good!

(Photo by Peonies and Polaroids, our food-photographer-in-residence)

*Editor's Note: Don't be intimidated by the fancy chef lingo. Chevre = goat cheese, which you can also find at Trader Joe's.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have quite a few gluten free friends and I've started collecting recipes. Our model for our Fall lookbook is gluten intolerant and since we're making a bunch of food for the shoot, I needed some good recipes, so this is perfect. :)

  2. This looks awesome. I also posted a recipe with Chevre on my blog today. Great minds think alike. ;)

  3. I have a couple GF friends and I am going to share this with them! Sounds very tasty. I know a vegan mac-cheese recipe that would work for lactose intolerant folks! It uses cashews, pureed, instead of cheese and it tastes great! I'm not even a vegan and I like it. If you want it, let me know! :)

  4. the perfect GF mac and cheese has been one of the several quests I have been on since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease a couple of year ago. Thanks for the new recipe to try!

  5. QUINOA PASTA. It is actually a corn/quinoa blend, but it is awesome. And I'm already fatter just by reading this incredible recipe ;)

    Another hint for cooking GF pasta, rinse it in hot water after boiling to wash away the excess starch that can make the pasta sticky.

  6. I found a similar recipe on the back of a Cracker Barrel package using milk. Not for calorie reasons, but is milk okay?

  7. @Asiya I just made this last night. So I can tell you from experience: MILK IS NOT OKAY. You know when you go to a restaurant, and you think, "What's the secret? How do they make this taste so good?" The secret is heavy cream.

  8. @asiya sorry, but milk will not work. first of all, milk will burn if boiled and second, if you want CREAMY mac n cheese, you've got to use CREAM. the recipe you saw probably had you make a "roux" first as a thickening agent. that is the way you make traditional/non gluten-free mac, but even then, i'd use half and half (also not good for boiling). you're probably thinking it's easier to use milk, especially if you always have it on hand, but trust me, you want to get the real stuff for this dish. it's so worth it! ;)

  9. hey esb and celia, hahaha, i WAS thinking it would be easier, because i have cheese, macaroni and milk. i am too lazy to go out and get the cream.
    i'm not looking for a gluten free recipe, but i do not like making roux (refer to lazy above). i'll go get the cream.
    thanks for this, can't wait to try it.

  10. YAY for gluten free recipes! and also yay for finding some fellow g-free folks in a non-expected (i.e. wedding related) place.

    this brand, ancient grains in the tiffany blue box is the best GF pasta i have ever had. my boyfriend who usually hates gluten free things loves this and said you couldnt really tell the differnece.