Artichoke and Spinach Mac and Cheese Casserole

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Suggested song to listen to while cooking: 1940 by The Submarines

My first article written for Silver Spork News was about mac and cheese, or really, cauliflower and cheese. Since then my horizons have expanded on this classic and versatile dish, and yes, it is thanks to my mom. Again. Anyone else notice how all I ever seem to talk about is cheese and my mom?

But I digress. She sent me a list of new mac and cheese recipes to try, and one caught my eye: Artichoke and Spinach Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. Really, it had me at spinach and artichoke, but what really made me pull it out of a bundle of others (which I am sure I will make in the future as well and will report back to you on), is the fact that it used butternut squash. I hate butternut squash. It does not float my boat. Despite this, I felt an urge to go out of my comfort zone and give this one a try, mainly because the squash is not thrown into the dish in fowl tasting orange chunks, but blended into the sauce.

Upon first taste, I was surprised, delighted, and craving much more. I enjoyed it greatly, though I did make a few adjustments as noted below, and I will certainly make it again! Plus, if you’re like me and living paycheck to paycheck, you’ll love this meal too, because even though the Gruyere cheese is costly, this baby lasted me for five meals. Pretty big ones too.

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Artichoke and Spinach Mac and Cheese Casserole

Ingredients
3 cups butternut squash (cubed)
1 and 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 and 1/2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons Greek style plain yogurt
1 and 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese (divided. I used extra for all cheese, cause you know me)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound of pasta
9 ounces fresh spinach
14 ounces artichokes (diced)
Salt (I could not find low-sodium veggie broth so I did not add any more salt)
Pepper
I also added paprika. Paprika and cheese were just meant to be together, like the two main love interests on a show that everyone knows should be dating, but they are blind to it and every episode we find ourselves yelling at the TV screen, “just kiss already!” They are simply a wonderful couple, and it’s time they accepted their growing attraction for each other.

Instructions
Prep time: 20 mins. Cook time: 20 mins. Total time: 40 mins

In a deep skillet, add the butternut squash, vegetable broth, milk, and garlic and simmer over medium high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Remove squash mixture from heat and carefully add to a blender with Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, and paprika. Blend until smooth.

Add in 1 cup of Gruyere cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese (I added about one and a half cups of the Gruyere cheese and a bit extra of the mozzarella and parmesan). Blend again until smooth and the cheese is melted. The extra cheese I added helped override the butternut squash taste I am not a fan of, but not so much that I lost the sweetness of the squash. Taste your sauce after mixing it up and decide if it needs more cheese or not–listen to your taste buds.

Meanwhile, sauté the spinach and artichokes in a pan on medium heat until the spinach is just wilted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package ingredients, one minute short of suggested cooking time. Drain and set aside.

Add the noodles, cheese mixture, and spinach and artichokes into a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour into a large casserole dish (9×13″) and sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere cheese.

Place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes, until the top of the casserole is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Post and Photos by Shannon Moloney. Recipe by Katie Compton.

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