Rating: 3.92 stars
73 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 17
  • 4 star values: 45
  • 3 star values: 4
  • 2 star values: 2
  • 1 star values: 5

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.

EatingWell Test Kitchen
Source: EatingWell Magazine, Winter 2004

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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.

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  • 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

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 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.

Nutrition Facts

584 calories; protein 37.8g; carbohydrates 59.8g; dietary fiber 8.8g; sugars 9g; fat 23.9g; saturated fat 12.5g; cholesterol 65.3mg; vitamin a iu 14547IU; vitamin c 2.5mg; folate 192.6mcg; calcium 750mg; iron 4.4mg; magnesium 171.6mg; potassium 675.5mg; sodium 906.7mg; thiamin 0.4mg.
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Reviews (26)

73 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 17
  • 4 star values: 45
  • 3 star values: 4
  • 2 star values: 2
  • 1 star values: 5
Rating: 4 stars
10/30/2011
Pretty tasty but I'd add a mix of cheeses next time along with a bit less spinach and a bit more pasta so it's a bit thicker. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
10/30/2011
We did this as a science project to show that eating more nutritiously doesn't cost more. I would like to point out that the addition of cottage cheese really increases the protein value compared to other prepared or even scratch mac & cheese recipes. The spinach adds fiber and vitamins and the whole wheat pasta adds fiber as well. But this one scored the very highest by a long stretch in protein. And it also tastes really good! Read More
Rating: 4 stars
10/30/2011
This recipe was a big hit at our house I love how easy it is and my husband and toddler both wolfed it down. Read More
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Rating: 4 stars
10/29/2011
very good...left out some stuff This was very good. I was very pleased with the result. I left out the bread crumbs because I felt they were unnecessary. I also used fat free cottage cheese and 1 3/4 cup extra sharp cheddar and 1/4 monterey jack. 10 oz. of frozen spinach did the trick 16 oz. probably would have been too much. I did use the nutmeg (most people didn't) and could not tell that it was in there...next time i think i will take out a little of the spinach and add some brocolli.. just to see what its like Read More
Rating: 4 stars
10/30/2011
This is absolutely delicious! Kavi Read More
Rating: 4 stars
10/30/2011
Really yummy recipe. Will definitely bake again. Read More
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Rating: 4 stars
01/24/2013
Satisfied my comfort food craving I made this Mac & Cheese last night to satisfy a winter comfort food craving. I read the reviews ahead of time. For those that found it bland perhaps you didn't use good sharp cheddar cheese? I used good quality 5 year old cheddar and I thought the taste was great. Next time I'd like to try adding Gruyere cheese for more depth of flavour. I doubled the bread crumb crust because it didn't seem to cover the dish enough otherwise. I also used a fresh bag of spinach instead of frozen. I added a touch of salt while eating. So for those that found it bland try good 5 year cheddar add gruyere maybe and a touch more salt... some suggested garlic salt... I'd like to try that too. Lots of comments mention the fat content as well... Well it's definitely an improvement on the traditional recipe. Using low fat cottage cheese worked really nicely. And low fat milk instead of cream - seemed to work just fine. I will make this again! Pros: Delicious and easy Cons: High fat but an improvement on traditional recipes Read More
Rating: 1 stars
08/25/2012
22grams of fat is not a low fat recipe Read More
Rating: 5 stars
10/29/2011
Healthy creamy dishes do exist! I just wanted to comment and say that I use Skim Milk for all my mac & cheese dishes. It gets just as thick it does take a little longer. It is worth it to me because it is even less in fat. I make my own bechamel sauce with the Skim Milk and add the low fat cheese. Works great for me! Read More