Homemade mac and cheese cannot be beaten. This comfort food is rich, creamy, and loaded with a buttery crisp topping. The spinach and feta freshen everything up and add some Greek flair. It’s almost like spanakopita flavored mac and cheese. Spanakopita flavored anything is right up my alley! A must for your Holiday table.
Many recipes call for a whole pound of pasta. I prefer half the amount to make room for the creamy sauce. Too much pasta yields a dry mac and cheese. This mac and cheese is saucy, flavorful, and so simple to make. I like to use different cheeses to add many layers of flavor. The mozzarella cheese is bland but adds that stretchy, cheesy texture that we know and love. The Parmesan adds a nice salty yet nutty notes that go so well with the tangy Gruyere. I save the feta cheese for the topping to add richness and flavor to the breadcrumbs. The entire dish is comfort food at it’s best!
Most dishes that I share in my dinner-party menus can be made ahead and frozen (for weeks) or at least refrigerated overnight. This one is a little bit different. Certain components can be made ahead such as the spinach filling and the pasta can also be boiled and refrigerated. But, the entire mac and cheese casserole cannot be made ahead or even assembled ahead and refrigerated because it will dry up and not be as saucy and delicious as the day that it is made. As pasta sits, it absorbs the sauce and is not the same. So, make this one fresh and your guests will love it.
- 8 ounces uncooked elbow pasta
- For the Bechamel Sauce:
- • 4 ounces butter
- • ½ cup all-purpose flour
- • 5 cups whole milk
- • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- • Salt and pepper to taste
- • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- • 4 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
- • 6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
- For the Spinach:
- • 1 small onion, finely chopped
- • 3 -4 tablespoons olive oil
- • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- • 2 garlic cloves, grated
- • 1-pound spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
- • 1 teaspoon dried dill
- • Salt and pepper, to taste
- For the topping:
- • 4 ounces salted butter, melted
- • 3 cups panko breadcrumbs
- • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- • Salt and pepper, to taste
- • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 375 °F, 190 °C.
Boil the pasta in salted boiling water for 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain and place in a 9 by 13 by 3-inch baking dish.
Make the Spinach:
Combine the onion with olive oil in a pot and cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until soft. Add the scallions and cook 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic and warm through 30 seconds.
Add the spinach in several batches and cook until slightly wilted.
Add the dill and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the spinach mixture with the pasta in the baking tray.
Make the Bechamel Sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until toasted.
Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Cook until it comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Do not cook for too long as it will thicken as it bakes. The sauce should remain runny. If it thickens too much, too fast, thin it out with some milk.
Add the cheeses to the sauce and mix to combine. Pour over the pasta and mix well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Make the topping:
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the butter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add the crumbled feta and mix well. Spread the topping onto the pasta and bake in the center rack of the oven for 35 minutes.
Turn the broiler on for the last 2-3 minutes to help the topping become golden brown and crisp.
Notes: This dish tastes best the day that it is made. If it is prepared a day ahead, it will dry up as the pasta will soak up the sauce.
You can make the spinach mixture the day before and refrigerate it. You can also boil the pasta and refrigerate that as well so that the day of your dinner-party all you will have left is to make the bechamel, the topping, and to put it all together.