Classic macaroni and cheese from a box gets an adventurous and healthy makeover with whole wheat elbow pasta, convenient frozen spinach, a low-fat cheese sauce, and marinated artichoke hearts.
The secret is in the sauce. My low-fat cheese sauce starts with a roux made with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, 1% low-fat milk and vegetable broth, and three cheeses including reduced-fat Cheddar.
Leftovers can easily be frozen.
- One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 3 cups dried whole wheat elbow pasta
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 bunch green onions, cut into thin rounds
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- One 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 4 ounces reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 generous cup)
- 4 ounces Gouda cheese (use smoked Gouda if you can find it), shredded (1 generous cup)
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Drain the spinach in a colander. Press with the back of a large spoon to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until almost tender. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Raise the heat to medium, add the remaining oil, flour, and pepper, and whisk constantly until smooth, 1 minute. Whisk the milk, broth, and mustard slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke hearts, Cheddar cheese, Gouda, ⅓ cup Parmesan, and spinach until well combined. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Spread the mixture evenly in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and bake until bubbly and the top turns golden brown, about 15 minutes.
What are your favorite mix-ins for mac & cheese?