Make Ahead

Emily's Cheesy Spinach and Mac

April 28, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

This is what I want my daughter to remember me for, the joy of the unexpected. This recipe was created in a ballet of serendipity and I can see her coming home after a bad day and curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and a steaming bowl of this, comforted by the memories of her childhood and of me teaching her to make it. I can see her sitting on my hip helping me to scoop out the curds for the homemade ricotta that is responsible for making this recipe such a creamy delight.

It is the kind of dish I WISH my mother had made for me as a child, but she is not what you would call adventurous in the kitchen. I have much more of a tendency to fly by the seat of my pants as a cook (after I learn the technique). Being fascinated by the chemistry of cooking, I used 1% milk as opposed to whole milk or heavy cream for the sauce in an attempt to make it a little healthier. I find it fascinating to watch milk reach the point where it starts to thicken, be it heavy cream, whole, 1% or even non-fat.

When I grabbed some greens from my potted herb garden for the sauce, I discovered they were definitely NOT basil. They smelled great next to the bubbling pot, so I threw them in anyway. Serendipity? Totally. The flavor of the mint blended beautifully with the zip of the white pepper, saving it from being too heavy. The addition of the homemade ricotta helped to keep the cream sauce light while transforming it into the tasty treat my husband and daughter ask for over and over again. —Corkage

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound Fusilli Pasta
  • 12 tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 3 1/2 cups 1% Milk
  • 1 teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons Ground Nutmeg, to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Fresh Mint, roughly chopped
  • 2 + 1/2 to 1 cups Homemade Ricotta (using Lemon Juice Method)
  • 2 cups Freshly Shredded Gruyere plus more for top
  • 4 large handfuls Baby, New Zealand or Savoy Spinach
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Breadcrumbs (optional)
  1. Prehead oven to 350.
  2. Cook pasta to al dente in salted water. While pasta is cooking make the sauce.
  3. For the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in flour until smooth. From this point on, you will be whisking continually.
  4. Turn up burner to medium and add the milk in a slow stream and continue whisking until the mixture thickens.
  5. Once thickened reduce heat to meduim low, add the salt, white pepper, fresh mint and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.
  6. Add the Ricotta and whisk until almost smooth. It’s OK to see some still. Once ricotta is incorporated, add the 2 cups of freshly shredded Gruyere and whisk until melted
  7. Add the spinach, stirring until wilted. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  8. Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9x12 ceramic baking dish, enough to cover the bottom. Layer pasta, then sauce, continuing until pan is full. End with a sauce layer. Stir gently to make sure all pasta is coated in sauce.
  9. Dot the top with remaining homemade Ricotta cheese. This will add extra creaminess to the sauce, and also create pockets of creamy goodness. Shred the leftover Gruyere over the top, just a light coating,
  10. Bake uncovered at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
  11. To serve, spoon into 6oz ramekins and sprinkle top with breadcrumbs.

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