Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese

This is the last of the gluten-free posts -- at least for a while. I still have a few random GF products laying around my pantry, but as they're just some standard bags of rice pasta, I'm not too worried about how they'll turn out. Anyway, when I cover them with homemade marinara sauce, it won't matter much how the pasta tastes anymore.

While the other GF products I bought were from Bob's Red Mill, this fun little snack is from Annie's, a popular purveyor of GF and health food products of all kinds. And while I'm naturally inclined to love anything that has a "rabbit seal of approval," I was still wary after the pancake incident.

As with regular boxed macaroni and cheese, the Annie's version calls for roughly the same preparation and ingredients: boil the pasta, drain it, add the powdered cheese (in Annie's case, it's "real" cheese -- sorry about the quotation marks, but the instant that something is reduced to a powder, I question how "real" it is anymore), milk and butter, mix and serve.

As with the gold standard (Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, in case there was any question about it), the pasta cooked relatively quickly and the sauce mixed up easily. When I was a kid, the greatest treat in our house was when my mother would make tuna mac: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a can of tuna and some frozen peas all mixed together. (Hey, we were really poor.) After tasting the Annie's GF mac & cheese, I imagined that the dish could benefit greatly from the addition of some tuna and peas -- anything, really, to enhance the almost nonexistant taste of the very bland cheese sauce.

Interestingly, in this case, it wasn't the actual GF piece of the food puzzle that was bad. The pasta was thick, larger than Kraft pieces, and had a pleasant texture. It was the non-GF piece that stultified: the boring cheese sauce. That aside, the people who'll be purchasing Annie's mac & cheese mix will likely be purchasing it for small children who don't know any better and don't care. So with that in mind, it's certainly a good alternative for GF families whose kids still crave a box of mac & cheese and whose parents crave something quick and easy to whip up on busy weeknights.

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Katharine Shilcutt