Gluten-free review: Annie's Rice Pasta & Cheddar

Gluten-free review: Annie's Rice Pasta & Cheddar

I was desperate to fill the Kraft Mac & Cheese shaped hole in my meal planning.

To say that I'm a fan of the original Kraft Mac & Cheese is a gross understatement. Until I went gluten free, boxes of the original Mac & Cheese were a staple in my pantry. I always cruised past it when I was at the grocery store, and if they were on sale, I would buy a bunch to stockpile.

I was skeptical of this Annie's pasta, because - even though people rave about Annie's pasta box meals - I was never a fan. I had tried one, years ago, and not liked it. In hindsight I think it was an oddball flavor; shaped pasta (any shape other than tubes has a bad texture) and an odd sauce like "white cheddar" or something.
 
But I was desperate to fill the Kraft Mac & Cheese shaped hole in my meal planning. (I can and often do make macaroni and cheese from scratch. But I have a busy schedule, and I like to have some boxed meals ready to slot in for those nights when I'm too busy or exhausted to cook properly.)

Annie's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar comes in a turquoise box, which is surely meant to be evocative of the Kraft box's canonical midnight blue shade. (It also shows off the yellow cheese nicely.) It is made with rice pasta, and certified organic. It also - let us be blunt - costs four times as much. 
 
That price differential should be enough to give anyone pause. I have seen elsewhere the recommendation that you buy a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and a box of gluten free macaroni noodles, throw away the noodles in the Kraft box and use the Kraft flavor packet over your own noodles. This seems wasteful, and I doubt it's much cheaper. But it is an option, since the Kraft packet contains no gluten (only the noodles have gluten).
 
The instructions on the Annie's box are similar, although they call for the pasta to be cooked for 10-12 minutes instead of the typical 8. This reflects the fact that rice pasta is not as tender as flour pasta. Although the flavor of the pasta was fine, you won't be tasting it anyway. The texture is not quite right - the rice noodles are not nearly as soft as the Kraft mix. But the flavor packet, I have to say, is very close.
 
I realize that "as good as the Kraft stuff" is probably not what Annie's was shooting for. But other Kraft Mac & Cheese enthusiasts will I think agree with me in that it is the highest praise you can bestow upon a boxed pasta mix.