Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese faux-Florentine

I have limits to my tolerance for mac & cheese. While I was living in the city on what amounted to minimum wage, I ate a lot of the boxed stuff -- seldom just plain -- and reached saturation point somewhere in the mid- to late-1990s. Still, every once in a great while, I decide it's time to try again, as long as I don't have to see another packet of powdered cheese-type substance.

Therefore, when I stumbled across a recipe in my mailbox, I was intrigued enough to try it. It was bland, but I saw potential in it, so I played with the recipe until I reached what I think is worthy of repeating in our house... and our guest, Jackie, agrees.

The best part is, it's relatively low-fat and high in nutrition, but don't ask me for counts or whatever.

Macaroni and Cheese, faux-Florentine

Oven temp: 450º F.

3-6 Tbs dry breadcrumbs
4 Tbs parmesan cheese (divided)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
16 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, finely chopped (divided)
1 3/4 cups lowfat or 2% milk (divided)
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 c. extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 c. lowfat cottage cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
8 oz. elbow macaroni

1. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with oil.
2. In a large saucepan, bring water to full boil.
3. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, oil, and 1-2 Tbs parmesan cheese. Set aside.
4. Squeeze out extra moisture from spinach, mix with half of chopped onion and remaining parmesan cheese. Set aside.
5. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of milk and remaining half of onion until steaming. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup milk with flour, whisk until smooth. Add this to the hot milk and then cook, whisking constantly until it simmers & thickens. Remove from heat, add in cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
6. Cook pasta in boiling water 4 minutes, or until not quite tender (noodles will continue to cook in oven). Drain, add to cheese sauce, mix well.
7. Spread half the macaroni in the bottom of baking dish. Spoon spinach mixture on top. Pour remaining macaroni on top of that. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumb mixture.
8. Bake in 450º oven until golden & bubbly (about 25- 30 minutes).

Options: (a) sprinkle crispy onion flakes -- an unbreaded variety -- on top as it comes out of the oven (not before, as they will likely burn). (b) add in chopped sweet peppers to the spinach layer.

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