Thursday, January 5, 2012

Garlickity Split!

Garlicky Spinach Mac and Cheese
Over the holiday season I threw and/or organized five parties in three weeks. Let's just say that even this happy-hostess is ready for a bit of an entertaining hiatus. On the upside, my fridge is stocked with bits of leftovers and unused dip ingredients just screaming for a purpose. My sweetie and I have been snacking of leftover Crock Pot meatball subs for the past few days . . . but what to do with all this cream cheese? Well . . . naturally another Mac and Cheese recipe was destined to make this week's menu. This may very well be the richest, creamiest Mac recipe I have ever put together, thanks to a remaining carton of half and half left from New Years Day Brunch. It's an easy and delicious dinner to throw together. You'll like it. But, believe me- a little bit goes a long way!

- 2 heads of garlic
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4. Tbsp. butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 c. half and half
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 c. dry sherry
- 1/4 c. flour
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 2 c. grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1 c. dried bread crumbs
- 1 small handful of Italian parsley, finely minced
- salt
- 2 tsp. white pepper
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 lb. dried orecchiette pasta
- 10 oz. fresh spinach

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Remove the tops of the garlic heads and place in the center of a square of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap tightly in foil and place on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft and brown. While the garlic is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and butter a 13x9" glass baking dish on the bottom and sides, set aside and prepare the cheese sauce. 

Melt butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and cook over medium until the onion softens and turns translucent. Stir occasionally with a wooded spoon. Sprinkle with salt. Add flour and whisk into butter and onion mixture over medium heat for 1 minute. Slowly begin to add half and half and cream, about a half cup at a time, whisking after each addition until mixture becomes silky and smooth. When all the cream and half and half are added, mix in white pepper, cheddar cheese, mustard, cream cheese, and sherry. Whisk mixture together until it is smooth. Season to taste with additional salt. Remove from heat. 

Add the dried pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Add the uncooked spinach to the boiling pasta and cook for an additional minute until the spinach is bright green. Drain pasta and spinach mixture, reserving a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Add cooked pasta and spinach to cheese sauce and stir to combine.

By now the garlic should be thoroughly roasted. Remove from oven and turn the heat down to 325˚F. Squeeze the roasted cloves of garlic from the papery head into a small bowl and mash the roasted garlic into a paste. Add to the cheese mixture and combine thoroughly. Mix some of the reserved pasta water into the cheese sauce to loosen it up a bit. 

Spread the cooked pasta and cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover evenly with a layer of breadcrumbs and then sprinkle with the minced Italian parsley. Bake Mac and Cheese in the oven for 40 minutes, until the top begins to brown the the cheese sauce is hot and bubbly. Allow Mac and Cheese to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. So yummy!

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