Why eggplant and spinach? Because we are heading out of town this weekend and that is what is left to be used up in my fridge. I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times, well, not this exact one. Mac & Cheese is your basic bechamel sauce, a white sauce. Butter and flour cooked into a roux which is used to thicken milk…also known as the easiest way to turn anything in your fridge into a pasta dinner.
You can substitute different veggies, use any short pasta – macaroni, rotini, bowtie, penne, use any combination of different cheeses, and could add a meat if you like, grilled chicken, chopped bacon, or sliced Italian Sausage. Try your own variations, like bell pepper and cauliflower, chicken and artichoke, broccoli and deli ham, bacon tomato and zucchini….yes yes yes, anything works! A classic dish, made healthier with vegetables.
Eggplant Spinach Mac & Cheese
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 eggplant cut into 1 inch cubes
- ¼ t kosher salt
- 1 lb penne or any short pasta
- 3 T butter
- 3 T flour
- 3 c milk
- ¼ t kosher salt
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- 2½ c shredded cheese (I used a combination of cheddar, provolone, and Parmesan)--save some for the top
- 5 oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped (1 bag or box or a couple handfuls)
- ¼ c Panko bread crumbs
- In a large pot (big enough to toss everything together at the end, I used a soup pot) over medium heat, add olive oil and saute eggplant until soft and beginning to brown. Season with salt.
- Meanwhile, boil water, add a pinch of salt and cook pasta following package instructions. Drain and reserve.
- When eggplant has browned, add butter and melt, then add flour and whisk to combine for about a minute.
- Add milk, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Let the milk cook on medium low, whisking occasionally, about 20 minutes until thickened.
- Mix in the spinach, it will wilt in the heat of the sauce.
- Add half the cheese and whisk to combine. Add in the drained pasta and mix well.
- Transfer to a baking dish (or 2 smaller ones) top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs.
- Broil in the oven, watching so it doesn't burn, until breadcrumbs start to brown and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve with a green salad, enjoy!
- If you want to save one pan in your fridge or freezer, do not broil it, cool in the fridge, then cover with aluminum foil. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight, then bake with the foil on at 350° for about 30 minutes and then broil for 5 minutes with the foil removed.