Spanakopita mac n cheese with olive oil bechamel recipe

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Luscious. Delicious. A great way to get kids to eat their spinach. That’s what my spanakopita mac ’n’ cheese with olive oil béchamel is all about!

  • Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

For the Bechamel
  • 3 cups (720 ml) milk
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin Greek olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup (50 g) grated Kefalotyri, Kefalograviera, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese
For the Pasta and Filling
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (450 g) elbow pasta or Greek hilopites (egg noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin Greek olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin Greek olive oil
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, washed well, and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 pound (450 g) pre-cut fresh spinach
  • Leaves from 1 bunch dill, snipped
  • 1½ cups (225 g) crumbled Greek feta
  • 1 cup (240 ml) fresh anthotyro or ricotta cheese, drained
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or more to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To Assemble
  • Olive oil, for greasing
  • ¼ cup (25 g) plain dried bread crumbs
  • Grated Kefalotyri, Kefalograviera, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese, for sprinkling (optional)
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
  2. Make the Bechamel
  3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and set aside.
  4. In a separate medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. As soon as it starts to shimmer a little, add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook, whisking continuously, for 3 to 5 minutes, but do not allow the mixture to brown. While whisking, slowly add the warm milk and whisk the béchamel until it thickens but is still liquid, with the consistency of pancake batter. Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. While whisking vigorously, pour in the egg in a fast, steady stream. Stir in the grated cheese. Remove from the heat, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside.
  5. Cook the Pasta
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it generously. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until a little less done than al dente. Drain immediately, return it to the pot, and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.
  7. Make the Filling
  8. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute to soften. Add the spinach, in increments if necessary to fit, and cook until the leaves are wilted and most of the liquid they have released has cooked off. Remove from the heat. Stir in the dill, feta, and anthotyro and season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Assemble the mac ’n’ cheese: Oil a large casserole or baking dish.
  10. In a large bowl, stir together the pasta, spinach mixture, and béchamel. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole and sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs and grated cheese, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until set and golden.
  11. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and serve.
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