Mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food.
Nothing screams comfort more than a hot, cheesy bowl of mac and cheese on a cool day. It definitely warms the soul. What’s not to love? Pasta coated in stringy, melted cheese and that crunchy, golden brown crust. The crunchy topping is by far the best part…lets be honest.
Although I strongly believe in giving in to your comfort food cravings on occasion, mac and cheese typically is heavier fare and not so waist friendly. I lightened up my recipe with the addition of part-skim ricotta cheese and some fresh baby spinach.
The spinach adds a vibrant color to the dish and amps up the nutritive value. As with all dark-leafy greens, spinach contains vitamins K, A, C, folate, manganese, calcium and iron. But no, this doesn’t justify eating double the portion size just because it has spinach, but you will definitely feel less guilty when treating yourself to some.
My baked shells and cheese with spinach will leave a smirk on your face and warm the soul.
Baked Shells & Cheese with Spinach
8 ounces shell pasta
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh torn baby spinach
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cook the shells until tender, but firm. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat milk in a large skillet over medium-high heat to a simmer. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Let the sauce simmer for 3 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and ricotta cheese until melted. Stir in black pepper.
Toss spinach with the drained pasta. Slowly add cheese sauce to spinach and pasta; stir to combine evenly. In a separate small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.
Pour pasta mixture into a sprayed 8 x 8 inch-square baking dish. Top off with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes then broil for 3 minutes until crisp and golden brown.