This creamy, gluten-free pasta with caramelized onions takes Mac n' Cheese to the next level. Elevate your next holiday dinner, date night in, or rainy day with this recipe!
Recipes, Savory Dishes

French Onion Mac and Cheese

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This creamy, gluten-free pasta with caramelized onions takes Mac and Cheese to the next level. Elevate your next holiday dinner, date night in, or rainy day with this recipe!

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From Childhood Favorite to Grown Up Indulgence

Fact: there’s never a bad time for Mac and Cheese. Growing up, Kraft Mac & Cheese was the go to. How could you not love the different cartoon shaped pasta and artificial cheese flavoring? On holidays, my family would make a homemade recipe, passed down from generations. Guess which one I preferred. If your answer is the Kraft version, you’d be correct.

Even in 2018, when I became gluten-free, I still opted for the box version. It wasn’t until I started playing around with creating my own Mac and Cheese recipe that I realized how truly average most box versions were. Even the best ones didn’t hold a candle to a homemade recipe.

So, the boxed Mac and Cheese was pushed aside. It isn’t often now that I crave Mac and cheese, but when I do I want an indulgent recipe. I want all the cheese, butter, and rich flavors. And that’s exactly what this French Onion Mac and Cheese recipe is! Long gone are the days of overly orange cheese coloring. Now, only the best of the best will satisfy that Mac and Cheese craving.

This Mac and Cheese recipe is the perfect balance of rich without being overpowering.
This recipe is the perfect balance of rich without being overpowering.

What Makes This Recipe the Best?

When I say this recipe has it all, I truly mean it has it all. From caramelized onions to a beautiful blend of cheeses, and finished with toasted breadcrumbs. This Mac and Cheese is built in layers that come together seamlessly. But why is this recipe better than any other Mac and Cheese recipes out there?

You may have guessed from the name that this recipe is a combination of two classics: French Onion Soup and Mac & Cheese. French onion soup is famous for its caramelized onions and broiled gruyere cheese over a piece of bread. The elements that make up the soup are rich and bold, while still being cozy and homey. All those classic fan favorite flavors were utilized in this recipe to yield a sensational Mac and Cheese.

The first layer of this recipe consists of perfectly caramelized onions. Then, a classic roux is built as the foundation of our cheese sauce. The key to the creaminess is a balanced blend of cheese, and for this recipe we will be using three different types. Each cheese comes with its own flavor profile that will help create an end result that is perfect. Finally, the recipe is finished with homemade breadcrumbs that add texture to the final product.

One bite is just never enough when it comes to this gluten-free pasta!
One bite is just never enough when it comes to this gluten-free pasta!

Making Perfectly Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are one of those components that naturally elevate any dish they’re in. While they can seem intimidating to make, it’s easier and more straight forward than it may seem. The key to making perfectly caramelized onions is patience and time. First though, what onions do you use? Each onion has its own taste and uses. When making caramelized onions, it’s best to use yellow onions because they have a hint of sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with butter.

Start by slicing three medium-sized yellow onions. I like to slice them in a julienne-cut because it ensures the slices will be more or less the same size; which, means they will cook more evenly. Once cut, add a stick (eight tablespoons) of unsalted butter to a large pot or Dutch oven. Melt the butter over medium heat, moving the butter until it’s completely melted. Then, add the onions to the pot. It may seem like too much onions, but much like spinach, the onions will diminish in size as they cook.

In total, you’ll stir continuously for roughly 25 minutes. Trust me, the time spent doing this is worth the reward. As the onions begin to cook down and look translucent, season with half a teaspoon of pepper and a dash of salt. About halfway through, reduce the heat to medium-low to prevent the onions from burning and add two tablespoons of vegetable broth. The broth will help deglaze the pan, as well as add additional flavor. Then, hit the onions with a place of Worcestershire sauce. While some people like to use balsamic or a bit of sugar, I love the complexity of flavor and color that Worcestershire gives the onions. After the allotted time, the onions should have a rich, golden brown color.

For more tips on caramelized onions, visit my blog post here!

The roux is key to creating a drool-worthy cheese sauce.
The roux is key to creating a drool-worthy cheese sauce.

From Roux to Cheese Sauce

Another element of cooking that people overcomplicate is the roux. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat – usually butter- that is used to thicken sauces. It gets a bad rep because it’s easy to “break” the roux. This happens when the flour and fat separate. This can happen when you add cold liquid to a hot roux or have too much flour. But we are going to avoid this with my simple steps to turn a roux into our signature cheese sauce!

  1. Add three tablespoons of unsalted butter to a pot. Melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Once the butter has melted, slowly whisk in two tablespoons of gluten-free all-purpose flour. You can add a tablespoon at a time, just be sure to whisk continuously until the sauce thickens.
  3. Pour in two cups of lukewarm milk into the roux. I like to add half a cup at a time. This gives the sauce time to thicken. Once the last half cup is added, stir until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce has thickened. Then, reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Now, it’s time for the seasonings. We’ll be using a blend of smoked paprika, thyme, garlic powder, and pepper. Whisk the seasonings in until well incorporated.
  5. Finally, it’s time for the cheese! The blend consists of smoked gruyere, parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Make sure all the cheese is freshly grated for best results. Add half the cheese at a time to sauce, folding in the cheese before adding more.

There you have it! I promise it’s as easy as it sounds, just remember to add the ingredients slowly and continuously whisk to incorporate each new ingredient.

Like with any gluten-free dish, the kind of grain you use matters.
Like with any gluten-free dish, the kind of grain you use matters.

Choosing a Gluten-Free Pasta

If you follow my blog (thank you!), you know that I usually use Banza or the Barilla Chickpea pasta. While I love both brands, after recipe testing I found a new brand that had the perfect shape and texture for this recipe. Because this is a dish with a heavier cheese sauce, it was important to have a gluten-free pasta that could hold its own with the sauce. Furthermore, a pasta that would last over time. This recipe yields multiple servings and makes for great leftovers! Many gluten-free pasta brands are great fresh but don’t hold up as leftovers and fall apart when reheated.

Enter, DeLallo. This authentic Italian pasta is certified gluten-free and boasts superior taste and texture. And let me tell you, their pasta lives up to the hype! I’ve used their gluten-free orzo before but hadn’t tried their other pasta varieties. For this recipe, I tried a number of shapes but found the Gluten-Free Fusilli was the best option. Its spiral shape took me back to childhood; furthermore, the spring-like curves caught the sauce perfectly. Finally, the texture remained the same from day one to day four!

Adding the Pasta & Secret Ingredient

One of the best aspects of the DeLallo gluten-free pasta is that it cooks to perfect al dente. For the best results, follow the instructions on the bag. Once the pasta is cooked, drain the water and add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Use a spatula to carefully fold the sauce into the pasta. A final note on this pasta: you don’t have to worry about it breaking during this process!

Once the pasta and cheese sauce are combined, don’t forget to add the caramelized onions. Make sure they are room temperature or lukewarm before adding to the pasta. It helps if you add roughly a fourth of the onions at a time. This will help you evenly disperse the caramelized onions across the pasta.

There is one final ingredient needed before the breadcrumbs… dijon mustard! Mustard powder is typically added to Mac & Cheese recipes to cut through the fat and give the recipe a hint of acidity. While you can added mustard powder or yellow mustard, I always opt for dijon mustard. It has a tangy, strong flavor with a hint of spice that balances out the cheese and brings the seasonings forward.

Remember to finish with breadcrumbs before serving.
Remember to finish with breadcrumbs before serving.

Easy Recipe for Homemade Breadcrumbs

Once the pasta and cheese sauce are combined, you can transfer the pasta to oven safe ramekins, a large baking dish or even a cast iron skillet. Just make sure the Mac and Cheese is spread evenly in whatever vessel you choose to use. Then, the final step to this recipe is making homemade breadcrumbs. While you can use store-bought breadcrumbs, I find that gluten-free breadcrumbs never quite have the right texture. This easy recipe will ensure the perfect consistency and come together in minutes!

My favorite gluten-free bread is from Schar, especially their deli style bread. But you can use whatever gluten-free bread you like. Take three pieces of bread and add to a food processor. Then, add a three teaspoons of dried thyme and two teaspoons of garlic powder. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Then, take the breadcrumbs and spread over the top of the Mac and Cheese.

Finally, place the French Onion Mac and Cheese with breadcrumbs in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 15 minutes on 350 degrees. Finally, to give the breadcrumbs a nice crisp, broil for three minutes on high. Be sure to watch the oven closely as the breadcrumbs can quickly burn. Once perfectly golden, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Last but not least, garnish the the dish with freshly chopped parsley!

French Onion Mac and Cheese

Recipe by Arianna LitrentaCourse: Dinner, SidesDifficulty: Easy
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

45

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes

This delectable pasta recipe is a great side dish for holiday dinners!

Ingredients

  • 1 12oz. box of gluten-free pasta, cooked according to box instructions

  • For the Caramelized Onions
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 medium-sized yellow onions

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable broth

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • For the Cheese Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups whole milk, lukewarm

  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 cups smoked gruyere cheese, grated

  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard

  • For the Homemade Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs
  • 3 pieces of gluten-free bread

  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

  • For the Pasta
  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions, then set to the side.
  • For the Onions
  • Add the butter to a large pot or Dutch oven. Melt over medium heat.
  • Slice the onions in a julienne-cut, then add to the pot with the melted butter.
  • Use a spatula to consistently stir the onions to prevent them from burning for roughly 25 minutes.
  • As the onions cook down, they’ll begin to look translucent. Season with pepper and salt, continuing to stir.
  • At the halfway point, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the vegetable broth. Use the spatula to deglaze the pan, then season with the Worcestershire sauce. Continue to stir.
  • After the allotted time, the onions should be a rich, golden-brown color. Remove from heat and cool.
  • For the Cheese Sauce
  • In a large pot, add the butter and melt over medium-high heat.
  • Once melted, add one tablespoon at a time of the flour. Whisk continuously to incorporate the flour and butter until thick.
  • Add half a cup of the milk at a time, whisking as you pour. Wait until the sauce begins to thicken before pouring in more milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, the sauce should be smooth and thick.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the seasonings.
  • Combine all three cheeses in a large bowl. Add half the cheese at a time. Use the spatula to fold the cheese into the sauce before adding more. Once all the cheese is added, stir until the sauce is smooth again. Then, remove from heat.
  • Next, fold in the cooked pasta. Use the spatula to coat the pasta in the cheese sauce.
  • Make sure the caramelized onions are room temperature or lukewarm before adding to the pot. Adding a fourth of the onions at a time helps to evenly disperse amongst the pasta.
  • Finally, stir in the dijon mustard. Then, transfer the pasta to an oven-safe dish- you can use ramekins, a large baking dish or a cast iron skillet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • For the Breadcrumbs
  • Combine the gluten-free bread and seasonings in a food processor. Pulse until you have fine crumbs.
  • Add a layer of breadcrumbs over the Mac and Cheese. Cook on the middle rack for 15 minutes.
  • Broil on high for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Then, remove from the oven and cool.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Refrigerate in an air tight container up to four days.

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