Monday, June 30, 2008

Spinach Mac N Cheese

This is a great dinner to make when someone else is doing the dishes, as each component (spinach sauce, mornay sauce, and pasta) needs its own pot. It's also a wonderful way to use up leftovers (chopped chicken) or anything else in your fridge (dying veggies). I threw all my cheese in-- cheddar, pepperjack, a dry crumbly blue, gorgonzola, romano, and some other less identifiable ones (be sure to cut off any mold first!). And it's a good dish for whole wheat pasta, since the other flavors are bold enough to stand up to that pasta bite.

You'll need:

1 package whole wheat penne pasta
1 package frozen spinach
1 large can tomatoes in their juices
1 onion, chopped
1/2 head garlic, minced
olive oil
2T butter
2T flour
2c milk (fat free is fine)
cayenne pepper
2+c grated cheese (I threw all my cheese bits in the food processor)
2 eggs
1 thick slice bread, made into crumbs (food processor again)

Put water on for the pasta.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put frozen spinach in a colander. Pour boiling hot water on top to defrost. Press to drain water.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Saute onion, adding salt and whatever dried herbs you want, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook 5 minutes more. Add drained spinach and cayenne to taste. Cook 5 minutes to combine. Add tomatoes and their juices; break them up with a wooden spatula or spoon. Stir and lower heat; let simmer while you make the bechamel.

Heat 2T butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in 2T flour. Whisk constantly for 2 minutes until mixture bubbles and expands and turns golden brown. Add 2c milk very slowly, whisking. Cook 4 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat. Add cheese and whisk to combine until cheese melts. (When you add cheese to bechamel, it becomes a mornay sauce, probably named after the 16th century Phillip, duc de Mornay, and perhaps introduced in the 19th century at Le Grand Vefour).

Cook pasta to just *underdone*. Drain.

Beat 2 eggs and whisk them into the mornay sauce. Scoop 1/2c of mornay sauce into the spinach-tomato sauce and stir to combine. Stir drained pasta into remaining mornay sauce.

Spread half of the pasta into a buttered gratin dish. Spread the spinach sauce on top. Top with the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and spray with olive oil, or mix bread crumbs with a bit of olive oil beforehand.

Bake 45 minutes, or until top is golden and sauce is set (knife inserted in center should come out clean). Let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.



We Are Never Full said...

yum.. seriously, there is no leftovers that don't work well with pasta. each recipe i have using veggies growing hair and cheese growing faces involve mixing it with pasta. this looks rich and delicious.

Liz said...

Since I was fortunate enough to eat this for lunch one day, I can report that this mac n' cheese falls into the extremely tasty category. Highly recommended!

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