Mac and Cheese is a mainstay at Foster’s Market, and we think ours is quite good; we make it most every day, especially this time of year. I was really pleased to be asked to participate in a Mac ‘n Cheese Blog using Wisconsin cheese in conjunction with National Cheese Lovers Day. On the Wisconsin Milk Marketing site you can find my favorite recipe for this all time favorite, along with thirty other bloggers. I hope you’ll give it a try. Feel free to add other ingredients, like cooked chicken or sausage, and try it with Wisconsin cheese. I have to say, though, I do love the simplicity of this one. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!!
Creamy Mac and Cheese with Spinach
We make this dish at Foster’s Market most every day when the weather turns cool. There are endless variations such as country ham, chicken chorizo, artichokes, roasted red peppers but this is one of my favorites because the cheese defines the dish here. Adding the spinach is my idea of getting your greens in and makes a perfect one-dish meal.
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound penne (or any bite-size pasta shape such as ziti, macaroni or orecchiette)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the dish
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups (8-ounces) grated Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup (4-ounces) grated Wisconsin Parmesan cheese
2 5-ounce bags baby spinach, (about 10 loosely packed cups)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Texas Pete or Tabasco)
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
2. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. (It is usually 1 or 2 minutes less than the cooking time on the package.) Drain the penne through a colander. Put the drained pasta in a large bowl and toss it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and cook and stirring constantly about 4 minutes until the flour is slightly cooked.
4. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the Cheddar, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and spinach until the cheese melts and the spinach wilts. Remove from the heat and stir in the marjoram and hot sauce.
5. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat the pasta.
Spoon the pasta into the prepared baking dish, scraping all the sauce from the bowl. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan and place in the oven to bake about 45 minutes or until bubbling around the edges and slightly brown on top. Remove the pasta from the oven and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
Other variations: Just a little goes a long way, and remember when adding meat, always cook it first. This is a great way to use up leftovers. Mix and add different types of cheese.
Add chicken, or ground beef, we call this one “ Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese”, chorizo or breakfast or Italian sausage, Pepperoni, bacon or ham.
Vegetaratian Options: Roasted or Sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed zucchini, eggplant or yellow squash, roasted butternut squash, roasted garlic, baked sweet potatoes, green peas or mushrooms,