Thursday, May 5, 2011

GF Pasta Casserole

The other night I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired when it came time to decide what to make for dinner. I figured that it would be yet another spaghetti night. My husband decided that he wanted to try something different. I welcomed his enthusiasm and gave him a few minutes to figure out an alternate plan. He went online and found a basic cheese sauce recipe and then I tweaked it to meet our needs. His idea turned into a really wonderful dinner.

Keep in mind that this recipe is not completely dairy-free in the way we made it, but substitutions are easily made. We have found that our kids don’t tolerate goat’s milk but we have had some success with sheep’s milk cheese. As a result, we keep various forms of sheep’s milk cheese on-hand in our fridge for occasional use. We typically buy our sheep’s milk cheese at Trader Joe’s and we can get feta, pecorino romano, Shepherd’s cheese, and sometimes we can even find gouda.
It's a good idea to always have GF bread crumbs on-hand. We keep a supply in the freezer in a marked resealable bag. I make bread crumbs by taking the heels of a GF loaf (or the leftovers from a GF brand the kids didn't like) and cutting them into cubes. I slowly toast the cubes on a cookie sheet in the oven at 300 degrees until they are dried into croutons. I place the croutons into the food processor and pulse until I they have a coarse meal consistency.
*We found that there was more cheese sauce than we needed for only one box of pasta. There was actually enough sauce for 2 boxes of pasta! We opted to only prepare one box of pasta and save half the cheese sauce to use another day.
GF Pasta Casserole
1 box (8 oz) GF rice penne pasta or other pasta variety of your choosing (*see note)
2 cups dairy-free shredded cheese (Daiya brand, etc. – we used Trader Joe’s sheep’s milk Shepherd’s cheese)
½ cup grated hard cheese (we used sheep’s milk pecorino romano)
3 cups dairy-free milk (we used coconut milk)
¼ cup dairy-free soy-free margarine (we used Earth Balance)
2 ½ tbs all-purpose GF flour (we used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 pound organic hamburger
1 cup frozen organic peas
½ cup toasted GF bread crumbs
pinch of paprika (we used a dash of red pepper and a pinch of cumin)

Cook pasta and drain. Add frozen peas and stir lightly to cover the peas with the warm pasta.
Cook hamburger in skillet. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat.
Whisk in flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly.
Stir in cheeses and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and fairly thick in consistency.
Put pasta and hamburger in a large casserole dish and pour cheese sauce over pasta. Stir gently to coat the pasta.
Sprinkle bread crumbs over the pasta mixture evenly, adding the paprika on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the bread crumbs are nicely browned.
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