I think one of my favorite restaurant items is the spinach and artichoke dip at Houston's, served hot and oozing with cheese as you dip a hot chip into the middle of the souffle cup its in. What is even better is it makes a hot mess of your napkin as you wipe your mouth each time you take a bite into its creamy goodness.
Another one of my favorite restaurant items is the macaroni and cheese at Artisinal. It is creamy and rich with stinky cheeses laced with ham bits as its served in a silver platter right out of the oven. I could like that platter clean if it were not for the very stuffy French staff that accompanies the macaroni and cheese (zut alors!) whose eyes gaze down on those lowly Americans devouring their precious cheeses.
What I am not in favor of anymore is any kind of weight gain. So, I found a recipe that combined two favorite foods - spinach dip and mac and cheese - that was actually healthy. Yep, you better believe it! There was no lack of flavor here, but lack of fat and calories that could make your hips a real hot mess!
Creamy Baked Spinach Macaroni and Cheese (courtesy of Dreamfields Pasta back of box)
Makes 8 1-cup Servings
8 ounces (2 cups) Dreamfields pasta, uncooked
2 Cups of 1% Milk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt to taste
8 ounces of lowfat swiss cheese, shredded (I used 6 ounces, it was more than enough)
10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x11 inch casserole dish
1) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta two minutes less than time indicated in directions. Combine pasta with spinach and set aside.
2) In a saucepan, heat milk over medium heat and simmer (do not boil)
3) Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until bubbly (do not let the roux burn). Slowly whisk in the hot milk and whisk continuously until the mixture is bubbly and thick, about 5 minutes (do not boil).
4) Remove from heat and add pepper, salt, nutmeg, and cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted and smooth. (Note: I made this a day ahead and it was thick, so I added some more milk to make sure it would not become to thick when I placed it in the oven - eyeball it)
5) Pour pasta and spinach into the pot and mix well.
6) Pour mixture into the casserole dish and top with the grated Romano cheese.
7) Bake for 35 minutes and serve immediately. I served it with a white wine from Sicily called Grecianico Sicilia.