There is a fabulous restaurant in my area called "Homeroom" that specializes in a menu of Mac and Cheese! They have the greatest mac and cheese combos like "Trailer Mac" with hot dogs and potato chip topping, "Mexican Mac" with chorizo and peppers, "Mac the Goat" with tangy fresh chevre, "The Exchange Student" which is Greek-style with artichoke hearts and spinach, and many, many more! They also have great soups, salads and yummy homemade desserts, even homemade oreos!! Each time I go I am inspired to try to make these delicious cheesy dishes at home. My favorite thing to order is "The Exchange Student", I love feta cheese and I love artichoke hearts and spinach! Last night I decided to try and re-create this dish. Not so easy since I don't know what they actually put into it or what type of cheese is used in the bechamel. I know that it doesn't look or taste like there is any cheddar in at all.
I made a bechamel, which is a white sauce made by whisking warm milk into a roux of butter and flour. Once that thickened I added gruyere and parmesan cheeses, salt and pepper and some spices for a little kick. In a a saute pan I carmelized shallots and then added the chopped artichoke hearts and spinach. Mix it all together and top with feta and buttered bread crumbs and you have a wicked yummy meal!!! I'm not sure if it's even close to the same as Homeroom's recipe but it is just as good (if not better)! The vegetables add great flavor and the cheese sauce is yummy and gooey! I love this recipe and I hope you do too!
Greek Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound large elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons butter, plus more for casserole dish
5 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 large shallots sliced
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts (drained, not marinated)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 dried bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13" casserole dish; set aside.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan. In a high sided skillet melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour. Cook stirring for 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into roux while whisking. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. This can take quite a while. When the bechamel has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, Gruyere cheese and Parmesan cheese. Set cheese sauce aside.
In a saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add sliced shallots. Stir occasionally cooking until softened and caramelized but not browned. Add chopped artichoke hearts and spinach and saute until spinach is tender and slightly wilted, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cook elbow macaroni according to package minus 2 minutes, until cooked but slightly under done. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Mix cooked pasta and vegetables with sauce and pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle all of the feta cheese over the top of the mixture. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss with bread crumbs, sprinkle over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.
Serves 12 people