spinach macaroni cheese
Mac n’ cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods, something you want to get stuck into straight from the baking dish as soon as it comes out from the oven. This spinach-laced version is rich, creamy and oh so decadent, with a beautiful deep green hue and contains 5 portions of your daily recommended fruit and veg – making it a great way to get the kids to eat their greens. If making for children (or if you aren’t keen on blue cheese yourself) just leave out the stilton and add more of the other cheeses in its place. This cross between baked spinach and macaroni and cheese can also easily be made into a no less tasty vegetarian option by replacing the parmesan and omitting the streaky bacon.
Spinach Macaroni Cheese
400g (3 1/3 cups) young spinach
400ml (1 2/3 cups) whole milk
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped (optional)
250g (8.8oz) macaroni
1 bay leaf
200g (7oz) montgomery jack (or cheddar), grated
100g (3.5z) parmagiano reggiano, freshly grated
50g (1.8oz) stilton (or other blue cheese), crumbled
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp flour
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Blanch spinach in boiling water, then drain and refresh under cold water. Squeeze and press out excess water then place in a blender together with the milk, onions, garlic and nutmeg and pulse until well combined and spinach is puréed.
Meanwhile cook the macaroni in salted water as per packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a separate small pan melt the butter then add the flour and cook on a low heat while stirring for 2-3 minutes to make the roux.
In a large pot over a medium heat fry the bacon (if using) in a little butter for a few minutes until golden and crisp at the edges. Add the bay leaf and pour over the spinach mixture, stir and cook until steaming and near boiling, then add the roux and mix thoroughly to thicken.
Remove the bay leaf annd add the stilton, and 2/3 of the montgomery jack and parmesan. Once incorporated, stir in the cooked macaroni, season to taste, then pour the sauced pasta into individual ramekins or a large baking dish. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Serve on it’s own or with as a side to fried chicken, grilled steak or other protein of your choice.