Baked Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the queen of comfort food on a gloomy day (or even a not-so-gloomy one). Eating Well’s healthy update takes advantage of extra-sharp Cheddar balanced with creamy low-fat cottage cheese and tucks a layer of spinach into the middle, which may help picky eaters down their vegetables. Whole-wheat pasta adds robust flavor and extra fiber.

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 bunch steamed spinach
1 3/4 cups 1 percent milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1 cup low-fat (1 percent) cottage cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni or penne

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with olive oil.

2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.

3. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4. Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.

5. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Tip: To make fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs. For dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees until crispy, about 15 minutes. One slice of fresh bread makes about 1/3 cup dry crumbs. Or use prepared coarse dry breadcrumbs. We like Ian�s brand labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets.

Recipe Nutrition
Makes four servings. Per serving: 576 calories; 22 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 2g mono unsaturated fat); 69 mg cholesterol; 63 g carbohydrates; 37 g protein; 9 g fiber; 917 mg sodium; 403 mg potassium. Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (290% daily value), Calcium (70% dv), Folate (37% dv), Iron (15% dv). 3 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 1/2 medium-fat meat.

Visit EatingWell.com for free quick and easy healthy recipe collections!

20 comments

Amira Stafford-Peterson

Ah, my favourite!

Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T.4 years ago

Great recipe, thanks so mcuh.

Rosemary Murphy
Rosemary Murphy4 years ago

My grandchildren will love this individually portioned dish

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Fabulous recipe! Thanks for sharing.

Jane W.
Jane Warren5 years ago

My mouth is watering - and I do not even like mac and cheese!

Ruth G.
Ruth G.7 years ago

looks yummy & like something I'd make.. but 11g sat fat per portion is still large (nothing like the original I'm sure though!!)

Melissa Swanson
Melissa Swanson7 years ago

Or, alternatively, you could cut out the cholestrol and try this even healthier version:

http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=8295.0

Christie C.
Christie C.7 years ago

I gave this a go this weekend (with broccoli instead of spinach, and a garlic/cayenne seasoning instead of nutmeg). Everyone loved it (it didn't last the night), but being the picky bugger that I am, I found the cottage cheese made the texture a little grainy.

Hathor Wadjet
Past Member 7 years ago

This is going to the ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese - I can't wait to try this!!

Charmaine Gonzalez
Marie Gonzalez7 years ago

Wow, I like mac and cheese! Maybe I should try this recipe once I have an oven.