There are as many ways to make macaroni and cheese as there are people who want to eat it. So says author Shauna James Ahern. And her gluten-free macaroni and cheese recipe is, without a doubt, the most confounding one we’ve ever encountered. Rather than relying on a time-consuming cheese sauce, this recipe draws on the alchemy that happens when hot pasta cooking water collides with grated cheese. That’s it. Just four ingredients. No roux. And empty plates all around. What ensues is a crazily luxurious and satiny sauce for what’s easily the quickest and easiest macaroni and cheese recipe we’ve ever witnessed.–David Leite
LC Required Reading Before You Make This Recipe Note
The following is required reading before you make this gluten-free macaroni and cheese recipe. Why? We want to explain that while yes, there is a certain brilliant sort of alchemy that transpires when pasta cooking water melds with cheese, what results is not going to resemble the classic macaroni and cheese of your childhood—be that the kind that came in the blue box with the rip-open envelope of powdery processed cheese or the kind that your mom made from scratch in her CorningWare casserole dish with those swirly flowers etched on the side. And that’s not a bad thing. Not at all. But it helps to have your expectations aligned appropriately. Just wanted you to know this macaroni and cheese is a little more adult, a lot more sophisticated, and quite a lot more magical, especially for the person making the recipe.
Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese
- 12 to 16 ounces gluten-free macaroni
- 4 ounces (1 cup) freshly grated Cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces cream cheese or soft, super mild goat cheese (chèvre)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. Add enough salt so the water tastes briny, sorta like the ocean. When the water comes to a boil, pour in the pasta and stir continuously for 1 minute. Then cook the pasta until it’s al dente, which simply means the pasta has softened almost to the point of doneness but still has a touch of bite to it at its very center. The exact timing will differ according to the brand of pasta you use, but in our experience, you want to start checking it for doneness a few minutes before the package says it’s done.
- Meanwhile, dump the Cheddar in a large bowl and then spread it out evenly across the bottom of the bowl. Dot the cream cheese or goat cheese on top of the Cheddar.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Immediately dump the drained pasta on the cheese. Then add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the bowl as well BUT DO NOT STIR. Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes before you even think about tossing everything together.
- After you’ve sat on your hands and not stirred the pasta for 5 excruciatingly long minutes, toss the cheeses and pasta together. You should have a really nice and creamy sauce. If it’s not quite creamy enough, add a little more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you’ve achieved the desired consistency. (It very well may take 2 to 4 more tablespoons pasta cooking water.) Season with salt and pepper.
Gluten-Free Macaroni And Cheese VariationsThere’s so much playing you could do here. The author likes Gruyère or Parmesan in place of the Cheddar. She also likes to add vegetables to this, like thin slices of sweet potato, handfuls of kale, or leaves of spinach. (After the 5 minutes of sitting in the hot pasta, the vegetables wilt to become part of the dish.) Smoked paprika can add to the taste as well. Cook Only setting dinner for two? Simply cut the amount of ingredients in half. It’s as easy as that.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I adore homemade macaroni and cheese, but so many times when the craving hits, I’m just too tired or busy to go through the whole process of making the roux (which I have, more times than I’d care to admit, burned and ruined) and then baking the whole thing. This recipe had me skeptical at first—just mixing hot pasta with cheese? Seriously? But it turned out to be some of the best mac and cheese I’ve had in a very long time. Without the flour and cream it was delightfully light and didn’t mask the flavor of the aged Cheddar and chèvre. (Usually I won’t use any fancy cheeses in my macaroni and cheese for fear of losing the subtleties of flavor in the cream base). Best of all, the recipe literally took me longer to boil the pot of water than it did to put this together and get it on the table.