Saturday, October 4, 2008

Florentine Mac and Cheese

Who doesn't love mac and cheese?? I am such a sucker for this comfort dish, especially when my dad makes it, but when I found this Rachael Ray version, I was excited to try a "healthier" version (hey, throwing some spinach and chicken in there makes it good for you, right?).

I did realize a bit too late that I used mozzarella instead of cheddar, but that wasn't necessarily a bad substitution! And I learned that I can effectively bake meatballs in my toaster oven, and I also learned that my husband gets grumpy when I forget to change the setting back and he takes ten minutes trying to figure out why his waffles won't toast when he's trying to walk out the door... Whoops. ;)

1 pound cavatappi corkscrew shaped hallow pasta
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
Black pepper
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus more, if needed*
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, (EVOO) divided
2 boxes chopped frozen spinach (10 ounces each)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, eyeball it

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt it and add the pasta to cook to al dente. Strain pasta reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
While the water is coming to a boil, in a large mixing bowl combine the chicken, salt and pepper, rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano - a rounded handful, egg and bread crumbs. *If the mixture seems too wet, add a handful of bread crumbs and mix together.
Form 8 large round balls, about 3 to 4-inches. Coat balls in a couple of tablespoons of EVOO and lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon EVOO. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and roast 17-18 minutes until juices run clear.
Defrost spinach in microwave 8-10 minutes on "defrost" setting depending on the microwave. Place the boxes in a shallow dish to catch any run off.
While the meatballs roast, in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, melt butter, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and thicken 5-6 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup grated Parmigiano and reduce heat on lowest setting.
Wring spinach completely dry in clean kitchen towel then separate as you add it to the sauce. Also add the reserved 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Toss pasta with the spinach-white sauce and adjust seasonings.
Serve Florentine Mac-n-Cheese with 2 meatballs per person along side.

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to make this for awhile. Yours looks so good - I'll have to move it up on my menu!


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