Then, I got a hankering for mac & cheese since I'd been thinking about putting it on the blog. I made it last Friday night with the ingredients I had on hand, which were different than the ingredients that I used in the picture I had, and it turned out so wonderfully better! While it looked the same, it tasted SO much better. I'm so glad I waited to write this.
When I first started playing around to make my tried and true mac & cheese recipe gluten free, I was using corn pasta and Trader Joe's gluten free all purpose flour. I really like corn pasta, a lot. It's most definitely different than wheat flour pasta but I appreciate it for what it is. Much in the way a chicken burger is different than a beef burger but I really like it for what it is...a chicken burger.
This combo of corn pasta and Trader Joe's gluten free all purpose flour was good. My son does not appreciate homemade mac & cheese, he'd rather have the stuff in the box, but my husband thought the gluten free version was good. He had no problem eating it at all. I even made it when we had friends over for a cookout. They all ate it, even the kids, and I didn't notice anyone leaving it on their plate uneaten. I had been satisfied with that new variation of my favorite recipe until last Friday night.
I started poking around in the cupboard to see what kind of pasta I had on hand. I had a lot. Trader Joe's, Sam Mills and Wegmans' corn pasta in various shapes. Gluten Fee Bionaturae pasta which is made with rice, potato and soy in a couple different shapes. Tinkyada brown rice pasta in one shape. The Tinkyada was calling to me. No reason, it just was. The only other time I'd used their product was for lasagna. It was hardly noticeable that it was gluten free. At one point my husband said, "I assume this is gluten free because you are eating it?" Yep. Love it when that happens. It's not like I'm kidding anyone because they know I'm not going to cheat so if I'm eating it, it's clearly gluten free but when it's not obvious, it makes me very happy.
Onto making the recipe. I used the last of the Trader Joe's gluten free all purpose flour a while ago so I was now into my box of King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour. The box is open with a little bit used. I can't recall what I used it for. There's not much gone at all so it was nothing significant so I'm considering this my first time using it.
Usually I wouldn't tell you what brands to use in a recipe. I will tell you what I use and why but that's only my suggestion. I suppose the brands in this recipe are my suggestions also but I will have you know that using the Tinkyada pasta and the King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour has made the best version of gluten free homemade mac & cheese that I've made yet.
The Tinkyada pasta had a really good texture for his dish. It was soft without being mushy. Corn pasta tends to be a bit more chewy, I guess you could say. It's good, don't let that description turn you off to it. The softer texture of the rice pasta just seemed to work better with this recipe.
The King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour made a much smoother sauce than the Trader Joe's gluten free all purpose flour. King Arthur's website does mention that you can bake without "grittiness" so I'm not sure if they do something special to it to lessen that tendency or if it's the combination of flours and starches that they use. At any rate, whatever it is, there was a noticeable difference in the smoothness of the sauce.
You can most certainly make this without using gluten free ingredients. This was the first mac & cheese recipe I made and it's still the only one I make. I found it in an old Betty Crocker cookbook from the late 80's. My mom bought it and decided she didn't want it shortly after she purchased it so she gave it to me. It's what I started cooking out of in my late teens. There are a few recipes out of the book that I still go to, this being one of them. The book is a disaster, it's been loved a lot over the years and has all the stains, splatters and splashes on the pages to show for it!
Gluten Free (or not) Mac & Cheese
Adapted from an old Betty Crocker Recipe
6.5 ounces of uncooked, gluten free (or not) pasta (1 to 1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup gluten free (or not) all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup milk
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
gluten free (or not) bread crumbs (optional)
additional shredded cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Boil the pasta according to package directions to the al dente stage. The pasta will be baked again later so you don't want it to get too mushy with all that cooking. Drain pasta and set aside.
Melt butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, add the flour and stir until combined.
Slowly start to add the milk while whisking it in. If you add it all at once it will be hard to get it all incorporated. Once you have the milk all poured in and combined, stir frequently and bring the mixture to a boil, still over medium heat. Once the mixture is boiling, continue to boil and keep stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and add the shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Add salt and pepper to your liking. I usually just add a little salt to help bring out the flavor of the cheese.
Add drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to thoroughly combine. Once combined, pour into a baking dish. An 8x8 baking dish works well, as does a medium round casserole dish or a medium oval baking dish. You can now top it with gluten free (or not) bread crumbs and/or additional shredded cheese if you'd like to.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and the top is golden brown. Or, however well done you like the top of your mac & cheese.