fettuccine with avocado-lime white cheddar sauce, gluten free

If this pasta dish were one of the Real Housewives ladies on TV, it would definitely be NeNe Leakes, who is a self-proclaimed "rich bitch." If you haven't seen Nene on TV, she is known for her strong, aggressive, and often confrontational personality. Much like Nene, this recipe for fettuccine with avocado-lime white cheddar sauce from Melt, the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, offers no apologies for its richness and has the goods to back it up. 

Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese

One of the small changes I made to the recipe includes the use of finger limes (also branded as citriburst limes by Shanely Farms in California) instead of a traditional lime. If you are like me, you probably haven't come across these before. I first tried these tiny 1-inch finger-shaped limes at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) that I attended last September. My good friend was working a booth and couldn't get over to the swag area of the conference. "Can you swipe me a bag or two of the finger limes?" she implored.

I obliged and quickly became fascinated with them myself.

To use the limes, I'd heard you could snap them in half, and then squeeze out all the citrus juice vesicles. You are then left with what appears to be lime caviar!

The lime's exterior has a thin layer of zest that ranges in color from a brownish green to a traditional lime-green. The color of the caviar itself could range from translucent green to light pink! The limes are as tasty as they are beautiful! 

Another great thing from IFBC was a little impromptu session with a couple of food bloggers. During the session we connected over our difficulties in finding blogging inspiration, publishing, collaborating, and a number of other blog-related issues. It was amazing how much you can learn from hearing about other people's processes (you down with OPP!?). One of the food bloggers, Garrett McCord (Vanilla Garlic) co-wrote the Melt cookbook with another friend of ours, Stephanie Stiavetti (The Culinary Life).

Garrett was kind enough to answer questions about their cookbook and the publishing process. During the discussion, I forced Garrett to pose with his book and snapped this picture on instagramGarrett was just as humble, charming, and sassy in person as his blog posts convey. Both he and Stephanie also happen to be wonderful writers and recipe developers so I couldn't wait to get my hands on their labor of love. 

A few weeks later, and my very own copy of Melt had arrived on my doorstep.

My new criteria for evaluating cookbooks includes the following categories: 1) Can I make it gluten-free? 2) Would I consider eating the recipe off the page? 3) Content & quality

1) Can I make it gluten-free?

I flipped through the cookbook and realized that virtually all of the recipes could be made gluten free with a simple pasta swap. Some recipes do use flour as a thickener (such as the mornay sauce used in this recipe), but I was delighted to find that our gluten-free flour mix could be substituted just fine! But if you want to take the guesswork out of making your own mornay sauce, fear not! Melt has you covered with a version of their mornay sauce that they developed specifically for those following a gluten-free diet.

2) Would I consider eating the recipe off the page?

The answer has more to do with how the recipe is presented in the cookbook, but I can undoubtedly say yes. Photograph after photograph depicts hearty, satisfying, smooth, creamy, and velvety mac and cheeses of all different types, all artfully arranged on beautiful plates or Le Creuset cookware. And speaking of the cookware, the Melt duo happens to be hosting a $500 cookware giveaway! Be sure to check out the link for your chance to enter!

3) Content & quality

One thing I loved about Melt was the opening chapters on the history, preparation, handling, and storage of both cheese and pasta. That type of information appeals to the food nerd in me!

Melt also offers a tremendous range of easy-to-follow recipes from classics like Fettuccine Alfredo and Beef Stroganoff to new creations like Toma Macaroni Egg Rolls With Spicy-Sweet Dipping Sauce and Mini-Galettes with Broccoli and Prosciutto. And there are even desserts like Orzo Pudding with Poached Dried Fruit! WHAT!?  

The avocado lime cheddar recipe in particular drew me in because of its uniqueness but also because I've been on a green kick lately. I just can't seem to get enough of avocados lately!

The dish turned out to be the perfect late summer, early fall recipe to make. The chopped cilantro, heat from the jalapeno, acid from the tomatoes, and the juice from the lime help cut the richness of the avocado-cheddar sauce making it a well-balanced pasta dish.

Just like Nene's persona on TV, this recipe turned out to be saucy, a bit spicy, and oh-so rich. 

avocado lime cheddar cheese sauce

fettuccine with avocado-lime white cheddar sauce, gluten free

This recipe is adapted from the recipe for Beecher's Flagship Cheddar with Avocado, Lime, and Shell Pasta in Melt, the Art of Macaroni and Cheese cookbook.

Serves 4-6 people.

ingredients

  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 4 finger limes (or one regular lime), zested and juiced
  • 2 green onions, green parts only, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 ripe avocados, pits and skin removed, divided
  • 1 lb fresh gluten-free fetuccine (may we suggest our own?) or 10 ounces dried conchiglie or other medium shell pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free flour (may we suggest our own?)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded or finely cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup quartered lollipop or grape tomatoes

instructions

  1. Remove the stem from the jalapeno and cut the jalapeno in half. Remove the ribs and seeds. Toss the jalapeno into the bowl of a food processor with the lime zest and lime juice. Add green onions, garlic, and flesh of 2 of the avocados. Blitz together into a very smooth paste.
  2. If preparing dried pasta, start cooking the pasta now in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. If preparing fresh pasta, wait to add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water until the mornay sauce is done. Fresh pasta, especially the gluten-free variety, cooks very fast. Check every minute until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside. 
  3. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges, turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon-a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add cheese to sauce, stirring until completely melted. Transfer into a pourable container. 
  4. With the food processor on, slowly add the cheese sauce until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Add the pasta, cilantro, and tomatoes to the sauce and stir together. Dice the last avocado and toss together with the mac and cheese. Serve immediately with a splash of lime juice and a bit of grated cheddar.

Special thanks to Stephanie and Garrett and Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a copy of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese to play with in the kitchen. Even though I received their book for free, I was not monetarily compensated for this post and all opinions stated are my own.

Photo of Stephanie and Garrett courtesy of Matt Armendariz and Little, Brown and Company

Disclaimer: This is recipe is posted for your enjoyment and is not available at the bakery. Please do not seek it there and instead enjoy making this yourself! :)

Comments

Yay! C, it was so great meeting you at IFBC and chatting blogs with you! If you ever want to chat some more just drop me a line. =D

What at clever use for the finger limes, btw. I'm envious I didn't think of it myself.

Also, yay that you're a Housewives watcher. It's my guilty pleasure. Hands down.

XOXO,
Garrett

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