Paul and I got invited to brunch this past Sunday, the kind where we all bring something wonderful. Being an artiste, I prefer to decide on what to bring based on inspiration. Mac and cheese isn't a normal brunch dish, which makes it appealing to me, and I recently saw a recipe for mac and cheese with pancetta! Now that got my motor running! Throw in the fact that Boudin SF is serving mac and cheese with crab and I'm clicking! There's just one glitch - one of our party can't eat wheat. At all. Since nine years ago I was doing the wheat free mambo myself (and man did I get tired of it), it was no problemo.
You will also notice there is no cheddar cheese in this recipe. That is because sharp, aged cheeses are a major migraine trigger for me and many others. Therefore I play around with non-aged cheese like jack, fresh goat, feta, fresh mozzarella. Sonoma pepper jack is a real fave of mine currently.
Here's my wheat free version of mac and cheese for a party. You can reduce the fat by using 2% milk instead of whole, and substituting neufchatel cream cheese for the mascarpone. Goat cheese has fewer fat grams and calories than most cheeses and adds a nice tanginess. This dish serves 10.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
4 ounces sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), coarsely chopped (sliced 1/8 to 1/4" thick)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup white rice flour
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated pepper jack cheese
1 cup fresh goat cheese, broken up into chunks
1 - 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
1/2 cup crab meat (optional)
1 pound brown rice penne pasta or other gluten free pasta such as quinoa
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and brown until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion, saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic and stir 1 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter, melt, and add rice flour, stirring 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk, simmer until thick and coat back ot spoon, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in all 3 cheeses. Whisk in remaining milk - sauce should be pourable but thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I made the sauce the night before and cooled it down fast before refrigerating by scraping sauce into a steel bowl and setting the bowl in a bath of ice water. After cool, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Bring back out when ready to use and let come to room temperature for no longer than an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°, butter a 13x9x2 baking dish. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender - do not overcook!!! Drain well, pour pasta back in pot and add sauce, stirring to coat thoroughly. Pour mixture into baking dish and if using, press tablespoonsful of crab into the mac mixture - don't mix it in. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and a little crusty.