Baked Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese

71 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 71

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
December 31, 2013
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By: EatingWell User
Never eat boxed again A friend ended up in the hospital over Christmas and I wanted to make sure his fiancee was eating well. I made a double batch of this and brought them one of the casseroles. She was SO grateful and wanted the recipe. I happily shared. It may be more effort than the boxed version but thre is absoluely no comparison! It was sooo tasty.
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