A bit unconventional, this creamy spinach mac and cheese is garlicky, rich, and full of spinach. I love this casserole for casual weekend gatherings. Serve as a rich and hearty side for burgers or chilli on colder days or on its own with a fresh salad.
Winter months require cheesy and creamy casseroles. And my family demands rich and carby pasta. But my insistence on making sure my family is getting their daily quota of veggies is often at odds. I get it, sometimes it is just too cold for salad.
Did you know you can add fresh spinach to mac and cheese?
Yes, you can! This creamy spinach mac and cheese has solved this problem. This creamy and cheesy casserole is loaded with spinach. So everyone is happy. A perfect casserole in my books.. an abundance of cream sauce, pasta, veggies and a crunchy topping. It is all you ever wanted in a pasta casserole.
Recipe tip! - This is the perfect recipe for a large cast-iron enamelled Dutch oven or roasting pan. Any large, shallow-ish pot that can go from stove-top to oven - that is big enough to hold the finished casserole is perfect here. It will save you on cleanup. Of course, you can also make the sauce in a large saucepan and transfer it to a casserole dish to bake.
How to make creamy spinach mac and cheese
Cook the pasta
Start with cooking the pasta to just before al denta. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven so don't overdo it. While you are waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook you can start the sauce.
Make the sauce
The sauce here is a simple bechamel. Don't be intimidated.
Start by sauteeing onions in olive oil and butter until the onions are translucent. Try not to brown them. This will take about 5 minutes.
Add mustard, salt, and garlic and saute for just a minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the flour. Stir the flour around with a whisk to get it incorporated into the oil and butter and coat the onions. It will form a paste. It won't take long.
Slowly add the milk and cream, string constantly. This sounds complex, but just go slow and stir. Start with just a bit of the cream and stir until there are no lumps, then add a bit more. The point is to keep the flour mixture from creating clumps.
Once the milk and cream are all added allow the mixture to come to simmer. Keep stirring! It will begin to thicken as it starts to bubble. This may take 8-10 minutes. Just keep stirring. The mixture will not come to a hard boil... you will just see bubbles breaking the surface.
Once the mixture is thick and creamy, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Add the cooked pasta and the spinach. The spinach will wilt in the hot sauce.
Make the topping
Stir melted butter into bread crumbs and mix with your fingers or a fork until crumbs are nicely covered with butter. Mix in about ½ cup shredded cheese and sprinkle on the casserole.
Bake and serve
Bake the casserole at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until it is bubbling around the edges and the topping is browned and crispy.
Let the casserole cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
For the cheese - I like to shred my own for casseroles. I find pre-shredded does not melt quiet enough. But if you are short on time go ahead and use a bag of pre-shredded cheese. You will need a total of 4 cups of shredded cheese for this recipe
I used Monterey Jack and a herb and garlic cheddar for this recipe. The herb and garlic blocks were on sale and worked perfectly here. Use your favourite. Monterey Jack is mild and melts well. Use fontina or gruyere as a substitute for either or your favourite. You can use shredded parmesan in the topping if you like.
More hearty side dishes
These recipes are perfect for feeding a crowd, cold weather potlucks, or Superbowl parties:
Spinach Mac & Cheese
- 3 quart baking dish or larger this is the perfect time to break out your enamelled cast-iron Dutch-oven: make the cheese sauce, assemble the casserole and put the whole thing right in the oven.
- ½ cup white onion, finely diced about half of a small onion
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or chilli salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon digon mustard
- 1 clove of garlic
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 500 g small pasta or macaroni
- 5 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped you can also use frozen chopped spinach thawed
- 14 oz shredded cheese I used a combination of montergy jack and herb and garlic cheddar, fontina and gyuryer are also good. About 3-½ cups of cheese
- 3 cups 1% milk
- 1 cup 18% cream
- 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoon butter, soften
- ½ cup shredded cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Start pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. About 2 mnutes before the pasta is fully cooked add the spinach. Drain both the pasta and spinach and set aside while you make the sauce.500 g small pasta or macaroni, 5 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
- In a large Dutch oven, preferably one that will be large enough to hold the finished casserole and is oven-safe. Alternatively, use a large saucepan. Heat olive oil, and butter over medium-low heat. Then add the onions to gently saute. Onions will take 5-7 minutes. Keep the heat low enough to simmer but not burn.2 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ cup white onion, finely diced
- Once the onions are translucent and soft, add a pinch of salt, dry mustard powder and dijon. Saute just for another minute until the garlic is fragrant. Sprinkle mixture with flour and stirring with a whisk, saute until flour is well blended into the fat and a smooth paste forms. This will take just a minute or two.½ teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon digon mustard, 1 clove of garlic, 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Slowly add milk and cream to the flour mixture. A little at a time. Stirring with a whisk until flour is completely dissolved. Once all milk and cream have been added, increase heat to medium and continue to stir and cook until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. This can take 8-12 minutes, be patient. When the mixture is thick and creamy remove from the heat. Stir in 14 oz shredded cheese and stir until cheese has completely melted. Stir in pasta and spinach.14 oz shredded cheese, 3 cups 1% milk, 1 cup 18% cream
- Make the crispy topping. In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs and soften butter, mixing with your fingers or a fork until the butter is evenly distributed, then mix in the cheese. Spread evenly over the casserole. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Serve1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, 3 tablespoon butter, soften, ½ cup shredded cheese