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Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese combines two of the best dishes into one – spinach artichoke dip and the creamiest homemade mac and cheese. It’s a delightful one-pot meal full of texture and flavor!
Full of spinach, marinated artichokes, and three kinds of cheese this mac and cheese recipe is creamy, melty, and a total crowd pleaser!
Ingredients for this dish
- Evaporated Milk
- Garlic & Onion Powder
- Salt & Pepper
- Minced Garlic
- Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, and Parmesan Cheese
- Frozen Chopped Spinach
- Marinated Artichoke Hearts
There’s so much to love about this recipe. It’s packed full of flavor from the marinated artichoke hearts, the spices, and the cheeses.
It’s so creamy and melty thanks to a little help from an unsung kitchen hero - evaporated milk!
Plus, it’s a super satisfying and filling vegetarian dinner. Even my meat loving husband asked for second helpings!
How do you make mac and cheese from scratch?
There are thousands (if not millions) of recipes for mac and cheese from scratch out there on the internet. But it still seems like such a mystery to so many people. Here’s the best method I’ve found for easy, stovetop mac and cheese that’s creamy and cheesy.
- Make a roux. This is a cooked mixture of equal parts butter and flour. First, the butter is melted, then flour is stirred in, then it’s cooked just a bit to remove that “raw” taste.
- Add the dairy. In this case – evaporate milk! It is the absolute best option when it comes to making melty cheese sauce.
- Add the seasonings. Like onion and garlic powder, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Stir in the cheese. There are three in this recipe. Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, and Parmesan cheese. All shredded by hand. This part is very important.
- Stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts. And all the juice from the artichokes. That’s more flavor and more moisture.
- Add the pasta. Which has been cooked just under al dente. This is key when making mac and cheese. The pasta is going to soak up that sauce and continue cooking, so if the noodles are overcooked the dish will be mushy, gummy, and gross.
- Add a splash of pasta cooking water. This will help keep the sauce thin and add more salt and flavor to the dish.
- Top with more cheese and broil. This isn’t a baked mac and cheese recipe, per se. It’s really a one-pot stove top method that can be finished in the oven, under the broiler. This creates that dreamy, melty, crunchy cheese coating on top of the dish. Think of all the cheese pulls!
Using evaporated milk in mac and cheese
Evaporated milk (also called canned milk) is my secret to creamy, smooth, and decadent cheese sauces.
It is produced by boiling regular whole milk until 60% of the water is evaporated off and the remaining liquid is concentrated. (This is not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk which has sugar added to it).
This means that there’s going to be less water and more fat solids in 1 cup of evaporated milk versus 1 cup of whole milk. This will prevent the sauce from seizing or separating while cooking.
And it is less caloric than heavy cream and a less expensive option that is shelf stable. Using evaporated milk leads to a velvety and rich tasting cheese sauce that’s perfect for this homemade mac and cheese recipe.
More Great Spinach Recipes
Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese
- Enamel Pan
- 3 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces shredded monterey jack cheese
- 2 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach thawed and drained of excess liquid
- 12 ounces marinated quartered artichoke hearts
- 16 ounces Casarecce pasta penne or rigatoni would work too
- In a large, shallow cast iron enamel pan melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Stir the roux until lightly golden brown and the raw flour taste has been cooked out, about 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously (it should taste like the ocean) before stirring in the dry pasta. Cook the pasta until just under al dente (there should be a little bit of bite left to it). Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid before draining the pasta and setting aside.
- Stir in the evaporated milk to the roux and mix until smooth (if necessary, use a whisk to be sure there are no lumps in the sauce). Add in the onion and garlic powder, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Cook sauce, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Stir in all but 2 handfuls of the shredded cheese and mix well to combine. Once the cheese is almost fully melted, stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts. There is no need to drain the artichoke hearts as the marinade will add more flavor.
- Stir in the pasta until everything is combined. If necessary, add a generous splash of the pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce a bit.
- Top the pasta with the reserved cheese and place under the broiler for 4 – 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
There is no need to cut the artichoke hearts, as they will break apart during mixing and cooking. But, if smaller pieces are desired the hearts can be snipped with kitchen shears before being added to the dish.
Leftover mac and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.