My kids were born in Surrey, and they never learned about Kraft macaroni and cheese. I know there are a lot of families out there that rely heavily on the cupboard staple that is pasta and powdered cheese mix, and I’m not judging. But between a gluten-free husband and processed-food hating children, I’ve found myself making mac-n-cheese from scratch many times. I used to think cheese sauces were terrifying, but this method skips making a roux with butter and flour, and is nearly fail proof.
The whole dish is really quite easy, and can even be a one-pot wonder if you can wait for the pasta to finish and reuse the pot. I go all out (thank goodness for dishwashers) and use one for the pasta, one for the sauce and a baking dish to finish it off. This baking bit is especially nice for partially boiled gluten-free pasta, but is easily skipped if you fully cook standard flour macaroni or shells.
This takes about the same amount of time as the boxed version, I promise, and is a million times tastier. Skip the processed cheese and have a go at making amazing cheese sauce to smother your pasta of choice.
- 8 or 10oz dry gluten-free pasta shells or macaroni (I used a corn and quinoa mix shell)
- Approximately 6 cups of water for the pasta
- 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
- 2-3 cups shredded cheese of choice (mature cheddar is especially nice)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup single cream (or half-n-half if you’re in the US)
- 1 heaped TB soured cream or crème fraiche
- Salt and pepper to taste
My super speedy method is to begin with getting the water boiling for the pasta in a medium-sized sauce pan. Use the kettle for at least 6 cups of water if you prefer.
In a second small saucepan, bring the chicken or veg stock to a boil. I generally use stock concentrate and kettle water, so about ¼ teaspoon of concentrate to one cup of water.
Add the shredded cheese (I’m super lazy and buy pre-shredded) one handful/cup at a time and stir well into the stock over a medium-low heat. I usually use a non-stick pan and rubber spatula for this job, rather than risk the cheese and cream sticking to the bottom.
Pour in the cream once the stock and cheese are well blended and beginning to reduce, keep stirring.
Once the pasta water has come to a boil, toss the pasta in with a bit of salt and reduce the temperature.
Add the crème fraiche or soured cream to both thicken and temper the flavours of the stock and cheese. Blend well until the mixture is smooth and slightly sluggish to run off the spoon.
Have a taste and add pepper and salt as you please. Also extremely tasty: a light dash of paprika or oregano, if you’re feeling fancy.
The pasta should be cooked by now, so take the sauce off the heat while you drain and rinse the shells or macaroni.
If you were going for the one-pot method, you’d simply rinse the pot and begin on the sauce while the pasta drains, but I do suggest a little sprinkle of oil to keep the pasta from getting too stuck together.
If you’re going all out, drain the pasta whilst it’s al dente and pour it into a baking dish. Again, I go non-stick so I don’t lose any shells to the pan. Finishing the pasta in the sauce makes gluten-free pasta especially tasty, soaking up the flavour.
Pour your creamy gorgeous sauce all over the pasta and give it a good stir to coat every noodle.
You can add the pasta back into the sauce if you’ve been draining for the one-pot method, stir to coat well and add salt and pepper to taste. It’s ready to serve once the pasta is back to temperature. Enjoy!
Bake the pasta with sauce in the oven at 350F/180C for 15-20 minutes, or until you’re too hungry to wait any longer. Feel free to top off the pasta with more shredded cheese if you’re indulgent and like the layer of crisped cheese on top. My son isn’t a fan, so I leave it off.
My kids absolutely gobble this up, and it’s done within 45 minutes with the oven method, 25-20 with stove top only. There’s plenty of protein and calcium, without needing meat, and using gluten-free pasta, we end up with hidden veg! If you like, throw in some frozen peas if you’re doing the oven method, they’ll be cooked and add a bit of sweetness. You can try vegetable pastas too, and different cheeses for more intense flavours … make it your own! I’ve used this cheese sauce over vegetables as well, if you’re not interested in pasta, and it’s lovely. Hope you have fun and enjoy!