Creamy decadent spinach and artichoke dip meets good old macaroni and cheese; two of my favorite things blended into one super-duper delicious meal. Even better, this dish takes advantage of all our handy modern conveniences: a box of pasta, a can of artichokes, some frozen spinach and a bag of pre-shredded cheese.
There are two potential approaches to creating this hybrid, one from the dip side and the other from the macaroni and cheese side. I chose to make the macaroni and cheese the way I usually do, and add in the elements of the dip. You could make this even richer by adding a cup of sour cream or mascarpone cheese to the sauce. I’ll leave that to you and your conscience. If you want a sharper cheese flavor, use a combination of sharp cheddar and Parmesan instead of the Italian Blend.
- 2 cups uncooked pasta (spirals, penne, shells, etc)
- 1 can artichoke hearts
- 1/2 box frozen chopped spinach
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- Set oven to 325F
- Cook the pasta in well salted water for a couple of minutes shy of the package directions. It's going to cook further in the oven and you want it to be firm in the finished dish, not mushy and melded into the cheese sauce like a solid brick. I hate that.
- Drain and put the pasta in your casserole dish.
- Thaw the frozen spinach and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Press with the back of a spoon to get all the excess water out. You don't want a soggy mac and cheese.
- The same goes for the artichokes. Squeeze them over the sink to get the excess water out. Then chop or slice them. I slice them because I like to see and taste the artichoke pieces. Add the spinach and artichokes to the pasta. Break up the clumps of spinach well with your fingers and toss everything together in the dish with the lemon juice and garlic.
- For the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan, add the flour and whisk for a minute over low heat.
- Then add the milk, and heat on medium until it thickens, whisking the whole time. When the milk thickens, take it off the heat and whisk or stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it now to make sure you have enough salt and pepper.
- Now all you have to do is smother your pasta with the cheese sauce, and mix it all up.
- If you want a little crunchy topping on yours, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan with the melted butter and sprinkle over the top. It's up to you.
- Bake for 35 minutes, and turn on the broiler for the last minute to get a little color.