This lightened-up spinach mac and cheese is creamy and delicious, high-protein, and packed with three kinds of cheese and tons of fresh spinach!
Hi, friends! It’s safe to say that when it comes to pregnancy, I’m definitely on a pasta kick. I think I’ve made some sort of pasta dish every week for the last few weeks (two weeks ago was my tuna noodle casserole, last week this dish I’m sharing today, and this week I made something similar to my cauliflower gnocchi skillet meal.) And I see a trend because my quinoa mac and cheese recipe is one of my most popular recipes from when I was pregnant with KJ!
One thing I can say for sure is that I’ve been more into a white sauce and cheeses this pregnancy versus my healthy homemade mac and cheese made with traditional orange cheddar. Pregnancy “cravings” or preferences are so interesting.
With KJ, I never felt like I had any kind of preferences. It was more of what sounded tolerable. Being nauseous for uh… 30 some odd weeks will do that to you, ya know? It was not the most fun experience I’ve ever had. I’m glad that my pregnancy with KJ wasn’t the only one I’ve been able to experience. While this one has had its challenges, it’s overall been a walk in the park compared to the extreme fatigue and constant nausea I felt with him almost the WHOLE time.
I’ll don’t think I’ll ever be one of those women that “just love” pregnancy. (PS, are you one of those women, or have you ever met one? Because I hear about them, but I’ve never met a woman in real life that didn’t think of pregnancy as just ameans to the ultimate end of a squishy cuddly baby.) After everything I’ve been through, I’m eternally grateful for my pregnancies, which eases some of the discomforts, but I don’t love pregnancy.
Okay, enough about that, let’s talk about how to make this creamy, cheesy baked pasta dish (good for all pregnant and non-pregnant persons)! Minus cooking the pasta, it’s basically a one-dish deal which is nice!
How to Make Spinach Mac and Cheese
I used to be SOOOOOO intimidated by anything that required making a roux. I hesitate to say this is recipe starts with a roux because I don’t want anyone to feel the pinch of intimidation. It’s a fancy word, but, an easy technique that everyone should be comfortable with! You mix your flour and a portion of milk, then pour it in a skillet with melted butter. Whisk and then add the rest of your milk and then whisk continuously until it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. The first few times I did this, I was unsure if it would thicken or if I would know when it was thick enough. You will know, I promise. When it goes from being milky to giving your whisk some real resistance like alfredo sauce, you’re there!
After that, it’s smooth sailing. In goes all your ingredients! My one very important suggestion is to add the cheese BEFORE you add the greek yogurt. In my experience, the greek yogurt cools your roux down, preventing the cheese from melting all the way. In this recipe, that isn’t that big of a deal because we’re going to put the whole skillet in the oven, but I like the cheese to be all melted in the cream sauce before it goes in.
As you can tell, the baking step is really necessary here because the sauce needs to continue to thicken. Don’t forget to top with bread crumbs, cheese, and just a sprinkle of fried onions! Optional, but ya know, kind of not! 🙂
Spinach Mac and Cheese
- cast iron skillet
- 2 tbsp whole wheat flour or gluten-free 1 to 1
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2.5 cups whole milk or you could use any other milk, including almond milk
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic
- 1/2 cup gruyere
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- 1/3 cup greek yogurt optional
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- 8 ounces chickpea pasta
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp crispy fried onions
- Cook pasta according to package directions, al dente.
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Whisk 1/2 cup milk with flour. Melt butter in an oven-safe large skillet (I used a cast iron.) Add milk mixture and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add in remaining milk and whisk continuously for 7-10 minutes until thickened (should coat the back of a spoon.) Add in seasonings.
- Add in 1/2 cup of each cheese, whisk to melt. Add in greek yogurt and whisk until smooth.
- Fold in spinach until just wilted, then cooked pasta. Top with bread crumbs, remaining cheddar, and crispy fried onions.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly on top.