Self-proclaimed font of Celiac knowledge, Libby tries to educate everyone she comes across on the differences between allergies, gluten sensitivity, and Celiac Disease.See all posts »
Gluten-Free Mac n' Cheese
Nothing really compares to the deliciousness of macaroni and cheese. It is a soft and velvety comfort food that can cheer up any bad day, and is great in a pinch for a quick fix for dinner. Though home made is always the best, grabbing a packaged box of mac n' cheese from the grocery store can be very tempting. Whether it is to feed kids coming home from school, a poor college student's diet or a guiltily pleasure, mac n' cheese evokes the feeling of trust, of home.
My childhood memories of mac n' cheese do not recall the traditional bright orange sauce and funny shaped pasta (though, I did love those), but instead I remember pasta with a creamy white cheese sauce, little bits of shredded ham shredded, and peas, all mixed together. It might be silly to think of this dish with such fondness, and I know my parents usually made it in haste on nights that they didn't really want to cook or were going out, but I loved it.
And I still do, which is why I am a Celiac on a quest for the perfect bowl of mac n cheese. Two box varieties that certainly won't break the bank are Annie's Homegrown Rice Shells & Creamy White Cheddar "Gluten Free" and Trader Joe's Gluten Free Mac 'n Cheese. Of these two, Annie's Rice Shells are definitely the winner, but you do pay an extra $1 per box. Annie's pasta stays firm while you cook it and the white cheese sauce tastes more… how can I say this… real than the Trader Joe's bright orange sauce. I am not saying that the Trader Joe's brand isn't good because honestly, I love the stuff, but Annie's has a better consistency and taste overall, plus shells are much nicer to eat in my opinion than long, tubular macaroni.
Two restaurants in San Francisco that serve amazing, and I mean amazing mac n' cheese for us gluten-freers are Grubin the Mission and Source in SOMA. With rice pasta at Grub, you build your own mac n' cheese with add ins like bacon, goat cheese, shallots, broccoli, and many more. The quality of the pasta is good -- not too slimy or limp as gluten free pastas can become -- and the price is reasonable. For around $10 you can build your perfect mac n' cheese, what's more to love?
At Source, my favorite dish is their gluten free truffle oil mac n' cheese. It is baked in a ceramic dish and served piping hot with a huge round of melted mozzarella on top. The atmosphere at Source is a little strange, and they seem to try a little too hard with making it a "multi-dimensional" experience, whatever that means, but it is worth it for the mac n' cheese.
Also note, the key to ordering mac n' cheese at a restaurant is ensuring that the dish is truly gluten-free. Ask your server about whether or not any of the ingredients contain gluten, and be sure to mention that no bread crumbs can be added to the top. It seems silly, but the number of times I have sent back gluten free food because of bread crumbs sprinkled on the top is ridiculous.