This mac & cheese starts with classic white cheddar cheese and then hands it a Greek twist with feta cheese, baby spinach, roasted red peppers, dill weed and cinnamon. Yes, you read that right. Cinnamon. It joins forces with all the other flavors and kind of fades into the background so it doesn’t jump right out at you.
At first bite you taste the creamy richness of the sauce peppered with the salty bite of feta followed by the brininess of jarred red peppers and tender baby spinach. There’s a little touch of sweetness from the dill weed and cinnamon. All of it wrapped around chewy elbow macaroni.
I’ll let you in on a macaroni & cheese secret. One I learned from my Mom. Because I like you lots and lots. Instead of mixing the cheese sauce into the macaroni and then pouring it into your casserole dish, put the macaroni in the casserole dish and pour the sauce over top. It will turn out a lot creamier and less dry. I think it’s because the macaroni doesn’t have a chance to soak up the sauce as much as when it’s mixed in. I tested this theory when I first started making mac & cheese – mine wasn’t turning out as good as my Mom’s – this is why. You can use this technique with any mac & cheese recipe. It will look you have too much sauce but it will soak in as it bakes. Trust me.
Anyhoo, this takes more time to prep than it does to bake. It’s time well spent. Trust me. You start by sauteing onion, garlic and red peppers then you make the cheese sauce while the macaroni cooks. The cheese sauce has butter, flour, dijon, milk and lots of white cheddar cheese. The feta, spinach, dill, cinnamon and cooked aromatics get mixed into the sauce then poured over the cooked pasta, topped with panko for a little bit of crunch and baked.
Twenty five minutes later the most comforting and delicious tasting mac & cheese you will ever want to meet will come out of your oven.
This mac & cheese starts with classic white cheddar cheese and then hands it a Greek twist with feta cheese, baby spinach, roasted red peppers, dill weed and cinnamon.
- In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the shallots, red pepper, garlic, a big pinch of salt and a dash of black pepper until tender, stirring often about 7 - 8 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.
- In the same pan over low heat melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring 4 - 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and mustard then turn the heat up. Bring to a simmer, still stirring and cook 5 minutes.
- Turn heat down to low and whisk in the dill weed, cinnamon, nutmeg and cheddar. Stir until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in the onion mixture, feta and spinach. Taste and season lightly with salt and heavy with black pepper.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water to al dente. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 or similar sized casserole pan.
- Drain the pasta and add half to the buttered casserole pan. Ladle half the sauce over it. Add the rest of the pasta and then top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the top with panko.
- Bake 25 minutes until bubbly and lightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let sit 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Saveur
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