Baked Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese

72 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine, Winter 2004

Mac & cheese can be a true comfort on a gloomy day, and our 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 4 servings

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Original recipe yields 4 servings
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  • 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs, (see Tip)
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1¾ cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
  3. Heat 1½ cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining ¼ 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.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, if necessary, then bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
  • 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 ½ cup fresh crumbs. For dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until crispy, about 15 minutes. One slice of fresh bread makes about ⅓ 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.
  • Storage smarts: For long-term freezer storage, wrap your food in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil. The plastic will help prevent freezer burn while the foil will help keep off-odors from seeping into the food.

Nutrition information

  • Per serving: 584 calories; 24 g fat(13 g sat); 9 g fiber; 60 g carbohydrates; 38 g protein; 193 mcg folate; 65 mg cholesterol; 9 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 14,547 IU vitamin A; 2 mg vitamin C; 750 mg calcium; 4 mg iron; 907 mg sodium; 676 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (291% daily value), Calcium (75% dv), Folate (48% dv), Iron (22% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 4
  • Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 3½ medium-fat meat

Reviews 72

January 26, 2019
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By: Linda
This was delicious but I did make changes. Used Macaroni made from chickpeas, low fat Cabot cheese, and subbed fat free sour cream for cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is where most of the sodium comes from in this recipe. Look for no salt added Cottage cheese if you prefer, it's out there. Also used almond milk instead of cow's milk, it cuts the fat and calories, and ups the fiber and protein. also saw the recipe looked a little bland so added some garlic powder to the sauce. Delicious!!
November 12, 2017
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By: Ruth
I use mushrooms and leave out the spinach. It adds more flavor.
November 06, 2017
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By: toomuchfabricstill
I will be honest in saying that I did not make this dish. It sounds delicious but I always check the nutrition information before making dishes. Sometimes I can make them work but I am not sure how you think this is a healthy dish when the sodium mg for a serving is 907 That is more than half my daily number. I love your magazine and subscribe and also give it as a gift but it seems that the sodium content is not necessarily considered when calling a dish healthy. I hope you can reevaluate some of your recipes
October 02, 2017
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By: Nanci Brown
I doubled the recipe in its entirety and quadrupled the breadcrumbs. I also included roasted cauliflower, some mashed sweet potato for color, about 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast for more cheesy zing, and a generous dollop of hot sauce. After tasting it, my husband pronounced it, "A winner!".
February 02, 2017
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By: Cheyenne Rigaglia
I followed the recipe. And we all loved it!
September 21, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
English version. I've always made mac & cheese from scratch but instead in the sauce I use a low fat cream cheese and hard boiled eggs instead of spinach. Nether do I put a topping unless we have company. It tastes just as good without the topping. Pros: Quick, easy but SO tasty. Cons: Always want too much of it.
June 11, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
how is 22 grams of fat healthy?! I may try this with low fat cheddar. As is, I don't see how anyone can consider this healthy!
May 24, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
Sooo good, adults and kids alike rave! Changed only slightly... I've been making this for years, and my kids and husband love it. I change a few things to make it easier AND bigger servings: use Italian Breadcrumbs (so you don't have to use the other seasonings listed for the breadcrumb mixture); double---or even triple--the breadcrumb amount. Use 3 cups of pasta instead of 2 cups. And I use a whole 16 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach. I also love that I can make this ahead in the morning/night before, and it's ready for the oven whenever! Pros: Easy to make, yet good enough for company! Cons: Probably not as healthy as you think, but oh well!
April 24, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Not Heart Healthy Just what is so healthy about this recipe? It has over 900mg of sodium per serving, almost half of your RDA! No thanks. Pros: None Cons: Way too much sodium
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