Gluten-Free Cheddar Pasta Bake Recipe

A retro classic gets a gluten-free makeover

Gluten-Free Cheddar Pasta Bake Recipe

For those cooking gluten-free pasta for the first time, the trick is to not over-boil it- keep it very al dente, as it continues to cook in the cheddar sauce. If you'd like to make this a one-dish supper, add broccoli florets to the pasta before you bake it. Cornbread crumbs make a tasty crunchy topping.


12 oz. dry gluten-free elbow macaroni, penne, or spirals
1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil (or butter)
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (or all-purpose gluten-free flour mix)
2 1/2 cups milk (or non-dairy unsweetened milk substitute)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or non-dairy gluten-free cheese)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon gluten-free honey mustard
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine- optional
1 cup gluten-free cornbread crumbs- for topping
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon paprika


Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the gluten-free pasta just until it is al dente - tender, but still quite firm to the bite. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it quickly under cold water. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and stir in the rice flour (I like to use a whisk to do this). Cook and stir the flour for about 10 seconds, then slowly add in the milk, whisking to blend the flour paste and milk (called a roux).

Bring the mixture to a boil (it will thicken as it heats) then reduce the heat to low. Add the shredded cheddar, salt and pepper, mustard and nutmeg and stir. If adding a dash of sherry, add it now.

Continue stirring the sauce until the cheddar melts, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a 6-cup baking dish, combine the cooked penne with the cheddar sauce. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with buttered gluten-free bread crumbs and paprika.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes, until bubbling.

Serves 4.

Recipe Source:

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Karina's Notes:

Adding sliced tomatoes on the top, or a handful of halved sweet grape tomatoes sprinkled with basil and Parmesan is an option- and very pretty.

To add more protein to the cheese sauce I sometimes stir in a beaten egg; this thickens and enriches the sauce, especially if you're using skim milk or a thin non-dairy milk.

Sometimes I add a cup of cooked broccoli florets, or green peas, to the cooked pasta before I add the cheese sauce and bake.

You could also add Alaskan salmon or even tuna, if you're feeling a bit old school.

Once in a blue moon I add a mild curry to the sauce- not too much- just enough to add a little something extra to the flavor. I use a mild cheese instead of sharp cheddar, and top it off with thin baby asparagus spears.

For how to make a fabulous new gluten-free vegan cheesy uncheese sauce for mac and cheese (without using vegan cheese) check out Karina's new cheesy-uncheesy dairy-free casein-free cheese sauce recipe here.


Karlie said...

Ack! I'm so excited to find your blog! I got there as a link from Vegan Lunchbox. I'm not vegan, but it's been suggested I may have celiac and I'm therefore struggling with my new GF diet. I've been losing weight because my food is unappetizing, and I have very little time (and a very small kitchen!) to make it in. Yours look really good so I'm hoping to try some stuff. I love Tinkyada pasta, but I've yet to find a good bread recipe or mix. I won't find out for at least a year if I'm truly celiac (medical wait times in Canada) so I might as well make this time enjoyable!

michelle said...

Mmm - comfort food at it's finest! I love baked pasta dishes, especially when they involve cheese. Your hummus also sounds really interesting - I've honestly never made it myself, and I've really been wanting to, so I think I'll start with yours! Thanks for the inspiration!

ilva said...

It looks great Karina! It gives me comfort just by looking at it!

karina said...

Karlie~ I'm glad you stopped by! There are lots of recipes [browse chapters via the icons in the sidebar] to feed you well. Hang in there! :-)

Michelle~ Thanks for dropping in. That hummus *was* awesome.

Ilva~ You are so sweet. We're eating the leftovers tonight.

Gaia said...

Hi Karina
this is Gaia! I'm a 23 italian girl who found out just before Christmas to be coeliac!!! I started my personal food blog last year and now that i know my desease I decided to reinvent everything i'm going to cook in a gluten-free meal, but sometimes it is not so easy especially for who lives in the Pasta,Pizza&Bread Country!!!
Hope to hear from you sometimes! Take care

BNA said...

YUM. That looks decadently good.

karina said...

Gaia~ Buono appetitio! [I wish I spoke Italian - your blog looks fun!]

bna~ Yup. You said it. ;-)

gaile said...

Hi - I'm new to your blog, and your food looks delicious! I'm excited to try some of your recipes. I have a question about the rice milk suggestion though - what brand do you use that's gluten free? I just saw last night on the RIce Dream box that it may not be gluten free... thanks!

karina said...

Thanks, Gaile!

I have used Nature's Promise [add more GF flour to thicken the sauce, if using rice, nut & soy milks].

Other safe brands I'm aware of are: Westsoy Rice Drink Plain, Whole Foods Rice Beverage Original, Lundberg Rice Milk Plain, Harmony Farms Rice Milk Plain, Edenblend Rice Drink - Plain.

Check out my post under If Ya Gotta Be Gluten Free [link in sidebar]:The Morning After... for more brand and shopping information, including links to safe brands and shopping lists.

Michelle said...

I'm kind of confused about using a non-dairy milk:
I've seen you recommend to add more flour (how much?) and I've also seen you recommend GF egg substitutes (how much?). Are you supposed to do both or just choose one? Would it work to use an actual egg or egg white (eggology) instead of Eggbeaters?

Thanks! Also, thanks for the list of gf rice milks.

karina said...

Hi Michelle~

First, when you're making a non-dairy white sauce using something rather thin, like rice or soy milk, the sauce is thinner; so I'd add a bit more rice flour to thicken it during the roux making process [where it says to "cook and stir the flour"]. Probably another tablespoon.

Yes, you can use an egg, beaten, to enrich and thicken the sauce. I do. The egg substitute I mention [Egg Beaters] is a liquid egg sub in a carton. Use the amount equal to one egg.

Hope that helps!

Julie said...

Finally tried this last night. Best mac and cheese ever!


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