Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Mac & Cheese

You know when you go out to dinner and you are SO hungry that you are convinced if you don't get an appetizer you won't make it?

And there is one appetizer out there I am pretty much CERTAIN that EVERYBODY loves.

Not everyone likes buffalo wings. And not everyone can scarf down fried calamari the way I can (I accept this. It is ok).

But let's all agree that pretty much everyone out there loves a good spinach and artichoke dip.

Cream cheese. Sour cream. Parmesan cheese. Spinach. Artichokes. Maybe you bake it with mozzerella cheese on top. So wrong, but so entirely 100% right.

I started thinking about "spin-dip" randomly a few days ago. Weird, yes. But I digress.

I felt like I couldn't just whip up a batch of spin-dip and eat it with greasy pita chips on my couch while watching The Devil Wears Prada (I should have just done this). I came to a quick conclusion that it would, on the other hand, be completely ok to whip up a dinner inspired by spin-dip and then sit on my couch watching The Devil Wears Prada.

So I made Spinach and Artichoke Mac & Cheese.

And I don't want to be pushy or anything. But it is time for you to go to the grocery store, pick up whatever ingredients below you don't have, and make this. Nobody will be mad. Everyone will be happy (and in a very euphoric comfort food coma).

Here's what you need:

1lb small shells (or elbows)
3 cups 1% milk
1 large bag spinach, chopped into ribbons (or baby spinach)
2 cans artichoke quarters, drained well and chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
1 8 oz. bag shredded cheddar jack cheese
1/2 8 oz. shredded mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
4 oz (half a block) cream cheese, softened (I used the 1/3 less fat variety)
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon or more all purpose flour
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Chicken broth (if your cheese sauce is too thick)

Here's what you do:

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, draining after 6 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven so you want it al dente.
In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat. I added in just a drop of olive oil to prevent the butter from burning. Add in the garlic. Toss in the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

Add another tablespoon (plus a little bit of oil if you'd like) of butter and increase heat to medium. Add in the onion and cook until transluscent and aromatic. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the chopped artichokes and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

Reduce heat to low, and add in the remaining butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour until a paste forms. Add the milk and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the cheddar jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, and the cream cheese. Continue to stir until all the cheese has melted. Return the garlicky spinach and oniony artichokes to the pot. Stir to combine.

Here's where things start to get really out of hand...
Pour the cooked pasta into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Gently pour in the cheese sauce and veggies. Stir gently until all of the pasta has some cheesey, spin-dippy love.
Top with the mozzerella cheese. Obviously.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until the sides begin to bubble. Turn the oven up to the broil setting and broil, with the oven door slightly ajar, for 2 to 3 minutes or until crispy golden brown on top. Keep an eye on it at this point..things can go from raw to singed very quickly on the broil setting.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes (if you can resist that long).
Chow down.

I originally did not chop up the quartered artichoke hearts and at times found the large chunks to be too bitter. By chopping them up and more evenly distributing them throughout the mac and cheese, you really get the essence of a traditional spinach and artichoke dip.

I needed something to spice up my day earlier in the week, and this meal did just the trick. Sure, it isn't the most kind on our waistlines, but my tastebuds were doing the happy dance. Leftovers barely lasted a day. You're definitely going to want to give this a try!

No comments:

Post a Comment