Rachel Getting Hungry: Healthy Shells & Cheese with Nature’s Pride Breadcrumbs

by Rachel on October 2, 2010

I’ve spent two days waxing poetic about the pan of cheesy goodness I made for Eric and me for dinner Thursday night, and now the time has come to share the recipe!

I actually decided to create this recipe as an entry for the Foodbuzz/Nature’s Pride contest that is going on right now. They send you a coupon for a free loaf of Nature’s Pride bread; you have to create a recipe using any variety of the bread and the bloggers with the best recipes get airfare and accommodations for the Foodbuzz Festival in November, where they get to cook their recipe for a crowd! I entered last year with my garlic bread soup and garlic bread leaves, and this year, I’m back at it.

Mac and cheese is pure comfort food, but this is actually a pretty healthy take on it! The spinach adds a serving of veggies and the Nature’s Pride breadcrumbs give a nice kick of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals, without gross additives.

What You’ll Need

(Serves Four)

Two slices Nature’s Pride Double Fiber Wheat Bread

One tbsp butter

1/4 cup chopped green onions

Two garlic cloves, minced

Two tablespoons flour

Two cups skim milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Five cups spinach, roughly chopped

Two cups uncooked pasta shells

How You’ll Do

Preheat the oven to 350 and cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. While your water is boiling, get started mincing garlic, chopping spinach, and making your breadcrumbs!

I’m really glad Eric suggested I get this bread. I’ll be honest, he just liked that “Double Fiber” reminded him of the Double Rainbow guy.

FULL ON! But I have to say, it was a ultimately a good suggestion. The bread’s thick and hearty texture was perfect for making breadcrumbs! I just tore it up in a pieces and put it in the Magic Bullet.

So easy! I only used one slice of bread when I made it, but I definitely suggest using two, just to get it extra crunchy on top.

Next, set the breadcrumbs aside, and get to making your cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan and cook the onions and garlic for about a minute. Then add the flour and cook for another minute, stirring the whole time. Gradually pour in the milk and salt and pepper and whisk until it’s all blended.

Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Then let it cook until it’s thick (about two minutes). Add the Gruyere and stir until it melts. Then toss with the cooked pasta and spinach.

Pour into a square baking dish and top with the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and pop it in the oven!

Let it bake for 15 minutes, until it’s all bubbly and delicious! Then scoop it out onto a plate and dig in.

This was just…mmmmmmm. I’d take a bite and try to speak, and Eric had to say, “Use your words.”

What I love about this recipe is that it turns out extremely creamy. A lot of times, macaroni and cheese can be somewhat dry or sticky, but this cheese sauce has an extremely smooth texture. It’s also not too rich. As great as mac and cheese is, sometimes it’s just too much. This is super light — I promise you won’t feel weighed down or stuffed afterward! And although it’s impressive enough to make for a date — just try and say “Gruyere” and not feel like a top chef — it’s fast and easy enough for a beginner to make on a weeknight.

I also love how easy it will be to double the recipe; if ever I need to feed a small army or host a post-college-so-now-we-eat-really-good-food tailgate party, a double batch of this will most definitely be on the menu!

Washed down with champagne and finished off with white chocolate cupcakes, it was seriously the most perfect comfort food I’ve had in ages.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ashleigh October 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Yup, that looks delicious!! Mac and cheese is one of my favorites but I never make it. The few times I tried to make healthier versions were nasty, but I never thought to add veggies! Good luck!


2 Kim October 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Does this re-heat well? I get really disappointed when I make great creamy mac and cheese and the next day it’s all dry. Looks SO good!


3 Rachel October 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm

It reheats VERY well! I had it for lunch yesterday at work and it was just as creamy and delicious!


4 Ashley October 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I did a healthified mac ‘n’ cheese guest post for Yumventures for Sophie’s absence. (It’s just the Fitness magazine recipe.)

Your entry seems really delicious … and normal, like something people would actually eat. I’ve seen some kind of questionable ones (and a delicious one for cookies). Good luck!


5 Nicole October 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

OMG I made something just like this a few nights ago. So delicious, right?! Something about the way the spinach goes with a healthier Mac ‘n Cheese is like pure comfort food.


6 Kitty October 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I bought the ingredients tonight to make this sometime this week! :] I’ll probably make it along with some cube steaks on the Foreman grill.


7 Rachel October 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Ohhh that will be so good with steak! Enjoy!


8 Lauren October 3, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I’m so excited to see this post. When my best friends and I really can’t stand school food anymore (we’re juniors and already at our wits end with college food, it’ll be a tough two years) we usually end up making a baked mac and cheese recipe. This is def. going on the list.


9 Rachel October 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Sweet! Let me know how it goes!!


10 Laurie @ Cookies 'n Cardio October 4, 2010 at 7:12 am

UM… Yum!?! That looks heavenly. Consider this recipe bookmarked!


11 Trinidad Pena October 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I love mac and cheese and I will be making this! I’m loving all the food posts lately.


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