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Gluten-Free Family Favorites: Pesto Mac and Cheese

This dish combines a traditional from-scratch macaroni and cheese with a healthful pesto, made with spinach in addition to the usual basil. The result is a green mac and cheese that’s not super cheesy yet loses none of the richness and flavor of the original.

RELATED: Gluten-Free Fruit Strips

RECIPE: Pesto Mac and Cheese

Makes one 9 x 9-inch pan or 2-quart casserole


  • 8 ounces (227 grams) short gluten-free pasta (e.g., elbow macaroni)
  • 2 cups (90 grams) packed spinach leaves
  • ½ cup (18 grams) fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup (37 grams) raw cashew pieces
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) sharp cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup (23 grams) plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) milk
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9 x 9-inch (23 x 23 cm) baking pan or 2-quart (1.9 L) casserole with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the spinach, basil, cashews, cheddar, ¼ cup of the Parmesan, and garlic in the food processor and process until a paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add ¾ cup milk. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining milk, the egg, and a dash each of salt and pepper and process until incorporated.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta with the spinach mixture. Pour into the prepared pan. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the pasta is set.


PESTO MACARONI: Omit the cheddar, Parmesan, milk, and egg. Toss the spinach mixture with the hot cooked and drained noodles, but do not bake

Kids can ...

  • Collect ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator
  • Measure ingredients
  • Dump ingredients into the food processor
  • Press the food processor buttons
  • Crack the egg
  • Mix the pasta and spinach mixture together with a spoon

RELATED: Gluten-Free Rainbow of Smoothies

To make this recipe ...


· Substitute hemp seeds for the cashew pieces.

Egg-free, dairy-free, and vegan

· Follow the instructions to make the Pesto Macaroni variation.


· Make sure you’re using a corn-free pasta, such as one made from brown rice or quinoa.

Recipe from "Gluten-Free Family Favorites: The 75 Go-To Recipes You Need to Feed Kids and Adults All Day Every Day," copyright © Kelli and Peter Bronski, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

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