Greens Mac ’N’ Cheese
Note: Leeks, broccolini and spinach add color and nutrition to this cheesy pasta, which gets a dose of crunch from a toasted almond topping. Adapted from “Ultimate Veg,” by Jamie Oliver.
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 1 large leek
• 1 lb. broccolini (substitute broccoli, if preferred)
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• Leaves from 6 stems fresh thyme
• 2 tbsp. flour
• 4 c. reduced-fat (2%) milk, or more as needed
• 1 lb. dried elbow macaroni
• 1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
• 5 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
• 4 oz. (4 c. packed) baby spinach leaves
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
• 2 oz. (1/2 c.) sliced almonds
Place a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, cut off the bottom quarter-inch of the leek, removing the root, and the dark green, fibrous parts of the leek (where it starts to unfurl) and discard, compost or save for vegetable broth. Cut the remaining leek in half lengthwise. Using just the white and light green parts, wash the leeks under running water, separating them to rinse in between the layers, until the water runs clear. Thoroughly pat dry and thinly slice.
Separate the broccolini florets from the stalks and chop the florets into bite-size pieces. Thinly slice the stalks.
In a large ovenproof skillet or fireproof casserole set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks, broccolini stalks, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the flour, then slowly stir in the milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the macaroni to the boiling water and cook for a minute or two less than the package instructions, until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, stir the Parmesan and all but a few tablespoons of the Cheddar into the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a blender (or use a handheld immersion blender), add the spinach and purée until smooth. (You may need to work in batches to avoid overcrowding the blender.) Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, taste, and add more, if needed.
Return the sauce to the skillet or casserole and stir in the pasta and broccolini florets, loosening with a splash of milk, if needed. Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar on top, along with the almonds.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 480 Fat 18 g Saturated fat 9 g Sodium 360 mg Total sugars 9 g Protein 22 g Cholesterol 45 mg Dietary fiber 6 g