- 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs, (see Tip)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
- Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
- Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.