Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne Recipe

Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne Recipe

by Carol Kicinski on May 29, 2013

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Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne Recipe

The very first “classic” recipe I recall setting out to learn was Béchamel or white sauce. I was a teenager at the time and it just seemed like a good thing to know how to make.

One of the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine, Béchamel is really versatile and can be the base of so many other fabulous things such as cream soups, spinach gratin, and cheese dip (not to mention mac and cheese!) Personally I love Béchamel so much I can just eat it off a spoon and when no one is looking, I do just that.

Béchamel is nothing more than butter, flour, milk, salt, and pepper. Sometimes the French heat the milk with an onion studded with cloves and the Italians add in nutmeg but in essence with the help of some heat and whisking, those four ingredients transform into something much greater than the sum of their parts.

Béchamel starts with a roux – equal parts butter and flour cooked together until it forms a sort of paste. Since Béchamel is a white sauce, the roux is not browned as it can be for other things such as jambalaya; the flour and butter are cooked just long enough to cook out any flour taste.

This brings me to a very important point for us gluten free peeps, the flour. You can, of course, use an all-purpose gluten free flour blend or you can simply use sweet rice flour (sometimes called glutinous rice flour). Sweet rice flour has just the right amount of starchiness to it and is neutral enough to make it perfect for gluten free Béchamel (or gravy for that matter.)

What you are going to use your Béchamel for and how thick you want it is all about how much milk to roux you use; for a thin, pourable sauce (such as cream soup or sausage gravy) one tablespoon of butter and flour per cup of milk is used, a medium-bodied sauce (think mac and cheese) is two tablespoons butter and flour per cup, and for really thick sauces such as the base of a soufflé, 3 tablespoons per cup.

Don’t be afraid of Béchamel, it is so simple to master and once you do, you will find a zillion ways to use it!

One of my very favorites is in this Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne recipe, where I combine Béchamel with gluten free penne pasta (I like to use Pastariso Brown Rice Penne) and one of my other favorite sauces – pesto. I layer it all up with some extra parmesan cheese, bake it up and the end result is heaven in a bite.

Gluten Free Baked Penne Pasta Recipe

Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne Recipe


1 pound gluten free penne pasta
4 cups fresh basil, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts
4 garlic cloves
1½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 – ½ cup olive oil
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sweet rice flour or all-purpose gluten free flour
4 ½ cups milk
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep dish lasagna pan.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne according to the package directions. Reserve about ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the penne.

Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/3 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor. Process until a smooth paste forms. If needed add a little more olive oil.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk the flour and butter as it cooks for a minute. Add about 1 cup of the milk and whisk well to dissolve any lumps. Add the rest of the milk, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the nutmeg. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the temperature and simmer the mixture until thick, about 15 minutes. Ladle about ¾ cup of the béchamel into the bottom of the prepared pan. Stir the penne into the rest of the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some of your reserved pasta water.

Layer half the pasta in the pan, spread half the pesto on top and sprinkle on ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Repeat one more time. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on top and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the pasta is bubbly and the top is beginning to brown.


A Gluten Free Baked Pesto Penne recipe that serves 8 – 10

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owner’s. This blog accepts free manufacturers’ samples and forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Affiliate links may be included in this post.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Torrie @ a place to share... May 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm

hello! i just wanted to say how happy i am to have found you! starting from instagram (this morning) to facebook, to your videos, to your blog), i’ve browsed through all, and cannot wait to continue to do so. i’m “aplacetoshare” on instagram, so if you notice lots of new “likes”, that’s me! completely inspired by what i’ve seen so far, and can’t wait to dig deeper, and try some recipes!


Carol Kicinski June 1, 2013 at 7:10 am

So nice to meet you Torrie! I look forward to keeping in touch – I love instagram, don’t you?


Jacqueline June 1, 2013 at 3:56 am

As delicious as this looks and sounds, I’m feeling like many of your recipes neglect the fact that many who are gluten free are also casein free, unfortunately. How I’m missing milk products, and occasionally cheat…but I can deal with paying the price, my 3 y/o can’t make that decision so I try to steer clear. Please suggest alternatives when appropriate to the dish.

Thank you!

GFCF and not loving it…


Carol Kicinski June 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

Hi Jacqueline, I do have many recipes that are specifically dairy free and in cases like this recipe it is simple to convert to dairy free – just swap out the butter with dairy free butter and the milk with dairy free milk – choose which type you like best.Enjoy!


Lynne H June 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi Carol – this absolutely sounds Yummy – I can’t wait to make it. I love Penne pasta. Also, I use vegan parmesan cheese from Publix sold in the organic area and it’s not bad. I also use Earth Balance instead of butter and Rice Milk instead of regular milk. Thank you so much for all your wonderful and creative recipes.


Carol Kicinski June 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Lynne, thank YOU so much and thanks for your suggestions on how you are going to substitute things, so helpful to my readers!


Ren June 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I love recipes with pesto! I know I’m going to enjoy this recipe.


Carol Kicinski June 5, 2013 at 11:59 am

Thanks Ren, enjoy!


Kerjan June 5, 2013 at 12:18 am

This looks delicious!

Everytime I hear the word “beshcamel” , I tend to think that it would be so difficult or complicated to make! you make it look so easy! hope to try it out soon


Carol Kicinski June 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

Thanks Kerjan – it is not difficult at all. I hope you do make it and that you enjoy it as much as I!


Jenny Lo June 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Gess Im off to make dinner then!

Yummy! :)

Jen X


Carol Kicinski June 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Haha! Enjoy.


Cathy Shackelford April 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm

I have Cealiac disease it has been a challenge for me to find recipes that are GF so thanks this looks absolutely delicious


Carol Kicinski April 8, 2016 at 10:39 am

Hi Cathy,
Glad to hear I can help make things a little easier for you!


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