On the hunt for a tasty gluten-free mac and cheese

  • The secret to tasty gluten-free mac and cheese is in the brown rice pasta.

    The secret to tasty gluten-free mac and cheese is in the brown rice pasta. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Updated 9/9/2021 12:53 PM

Combine gluten-free macaroni and a touch of cheese sauce magic and, voila, a new (for me) no-wheat mac and cheese is born.

For those eschewing wheat, standard mac and cheese has three wheat issues.

 

One: Standard macaroni is made from wheat.

Two: Most mac and cheese sauces begin with a roux, where butter and flour are cooked together.

Three: Toasted, wheat-based bread crumbs top what many consider a classic mac and cheese.

I've tired of many of my terrific not-mac and cheese creations, and I really missed the standard and wondered if I could create a wheat-free mac and cheese that was nearly identical.

No surprise, mac is the main wheat source in mac and cheese. First, I searched the web for nonmanufacturer affiliated websites that had tested and ranked wheat-free pasta. The Epicurious website -- epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-best-gluten-free-pasta-you-can-buy-online-article -- recommends an old favorite: Jovial brand 100-percent Organic Brown Rice Gluten-Free Pasta.

About Jovial's brown rice pasta, they quoted their Senior Food Editor Anna Stockwell: "I've fed it to people who could not tell they were eating gluten-free pasta at all. This stuff is magic."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Magic? Hmmm. Just what I was looking for.

Jovial brand 100-percent Organic Brown Rice Gluten-Free Pasta makes a good base for wheat-free mac and cheese.
Jovial brand 100-percent Organic Brown Rice Gluten-Free Pasta makes a good base for wheat-free mac and cheese.

Lucky me, there was an unopened box of Jovial's organic, gluten-free macaroni (12 ounces/$4.49) in my pantry. Perfect.

Melting cheese into a sauce without a roux was my next hurdle since melting a block of cheddar cheese and stirring it into pasta doesn't work. It separates into a fairly gloppy mess.

So, it's molecular gastronomy to the rescue with a, once again, magical solution: sodium citrate ($7.99/2 ounces at Amazon).

Sodium citrate makes processed cheeses (like American or Swiss) melt beautifully. You've probably used a processed cheese on a burger or grilled cheese without knowing that sodium citrate was the magician pulling a perfect melt out of the hat.

Turning to a Modernist Cuisine mac and cheese sauce that uses cheese (any kind), sodium citrate and liquid (anything from water to milk) solved my no-wheat cheese sauce dilemma.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For those who need to bake a breadcrumb topped macaroni and cheese, my solution to that is grated (I use my food processor's grating blade) baked pork rinds into a topping that looks like bread crumbs.

Preferring the ease of a one-pan, no-bake mac and cheese, while my brown rice macaroni simmered away, I grated 8 ounces of organic, raw milk white cheddar. Using a 2-quart saucepan, I whisked a ½-teaspoon of sodium citrate into a half-cup of water until it dissolved. Then, I brought the water to a low simmer and began whisking in the cheese. At first, once all the cheese was added, the sauce looked a little thin. Soon it began to thicken and looked just like a regular roux-based sauce. I drained the macaroni and stirred it into the sauce until it was mixed well. A few grinds of black pepper, and it was ready to serve.

The results could not have been better. I could not tell that this was a no-wheat mac and cheese. The macaroni was both smooth tasting and my cheese sauce clung perfectly.

Almost magic.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

Zero Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces, 100-percent Organic Brown Rice Gluten-Free Macaroni

½ teaspoon sodium citrate

½ cup water (or milk, your choice)

8 ounces extra sharp, cheddar cheese, grated (I prefer organic)

Add 2-quarts water to a 5-quart saucepan and place over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1½ teaspoons sea salt) and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni and bring back to boil, while stirring. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. (I begin tasting at 10 minutes).

While macaroni cooks, add sodium citrate and water to the bottom of a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer of medium heat. Add the cheese, a handful at a time and whisk into the liquid. As each handful melts, add the next handful until all the cheese has been incorporated. If the sauce is too thick add a tablespoon of liquid.

When the macaroni is done, drain and add to the cheese sauce; stirring until well combined.

Serves 4

Nutrition values per serving: 440 calories (42.5 percent from fat), 20.8 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 43.7 g carbohydrates, 0.3 g sugars, 2 g fiber, 19 g protein, 60 mg cholesterol, 528 mg sodium.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DailyHeraldFans/. Thank you.