Baked Mac & Cheese
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.
- 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs, (see Tip)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne
- 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.
- Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Tips & Notes
- 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.
- 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°F 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.
- 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.
Per serving: 576 calories; 22 g fat (11 g sat, 2 g mono); 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).
Carbohydrate Servings: 3 1/2
Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 1/2 medium-fat meat
More From EatingWell
Omega-3 fats are good for your heart and are found in fish...
These healthy sugar-free dessert recipes are a delicious and...
Stir-fries are an easy way to get dinner on the table fast...
Whether you're looking for a quick breakfast or a refreshing...
If you’re trying to slim down, our low-calorie dinners to...
Carbs have gotten a bad rap as a diet no-no, but whole grains...
When you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t need to skimp on...
The next time you’re thinking about ordering takeout, put...
Fresh seasonal produce offers plenty of reasons to try one of...
Baking a cake from scratch doesn’t have to be time-intensive...
There’s something oh-so-soothing about a bowl of creamy...
Our nutritionists have verified that these recipes do not...
Homemade desserts, including piping-hot apple pie, rich...
If you’re searching for an affordable and healthy meal for...
Our healthy lasagna recipes, including classic meat lasagna...
Make sure you have a quick and easy dinner ready to go next...
- Super Bowl
- Ease of Preparation
- Total Time
- 1 hour or less
- Preparation/ Technique