I know winter is coming when I break out the Gruyere, my body is already going into hibernation mode and this Spinach Mac and Cheese with Gruyere is the jumping-off point.
With so many versions of Mac and Cheese, what makes this one so special?
Gruyere cheese is not budget friendly outside of Europe, or even Switzerland for that matter. In most places, the Emmi Swiss brand is the one that is readily available. This is the one I will be using for this recipe.
I have come to adore Gruyere because of some similarities it shares with its American equivalent, old cheddar. Its sharpness and level of saltiness really elevates the taste of any cheese dish. From fondue to gratin, gruyere cheese adds a natural smokey flavor that makes you feel as if you are dining in a Swiss chalet.
Having had the chance to visit the city of Gruyere, I was lucky enough to try Swiss cheeses aged so well that when you took a bite, little salt crystals burst in your mouth like pop rocks. The only other cheese I tasted similar with salt crystals was Trader Joe’s, Unexpected Cheddar Cheese. (Some would consider it the poor man’s equivalent, but I disagree; it’s one of the best store bought cheeses coming from America.)
This recipe is going to combine my love gruyere with an aged Welsh cheddar into a béchamel sauce flavored with spinach and bacon. Some of the best Spinach Mac and Cheese to try before the start of winter.
|Prep Time||Cook Time||Total Time|
|10-15 MINUTES||20-25 MINUTES||40 MINUTES|
2 cups macaroni
1 cup gruyere
1 cup of old cheddar
2 cups of spinach
½ cup chopped bacon (optional)
1 tablespoon of butter
½ cup cream (18%)
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon of flour
2 egg yolks
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Fill a large pot of water and set to boil. Turn the oven on broil using the top grill.
Grate gruyere and cheddar and mix in a separate bowl.
Slice the spinach into ½ inch strips and chop the bacon into cubes.
Using a Creuset pot (or any pot that can be transferred to the oven after), turn the stove to medium heat (7) and cook the bacon and butter together.
Once the bacon starts browning, add the spinach and cook it until the leaves reduce to half the size and the water evaporates.
While the spinach and bacon are cooking, pour the milk and cream into one bowl with the flour and whisk together. Once the dairy and flour is mixed, pour it into the pot of bacon and spinach.
Keeping your eye on the pot, start stirring the cream mixture lowering the heat more (6 on an electric stove). Continue stirring until the sauce starts to thicken and then add the 1 ½ cup of cheese. (If you have extra cheese for topping, you can add the full two cups.)
Now you can start adding the salt and nutmeg as you continue to stir and then leave the cheese mixture cooking on low heat (between 3 and 4). Once the heat is low enough, you can mix in the egg yolks lowering the heat more or turning off the stove.
Checking on your boiling water, add the macaroni and cook two minutes less than what the package suggests.
Once your macaroni is ready, mix with the cheese sauce in the same pot and then top the Mac & Cheese with the excess grated gruyere and cheddar. Place the dish in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, or until the top of the pie has grilled golden brown.
I made this recipe in less than 30 minutes during my lunch break, but for first timers it may take longer. To save on time, you can opt out of grilling the cheesy top part and eat it as is. It is still good and saves on time.
I also like to check in with my boiling water regularly, cooking both parts (the cheese sauce and noodles) simultaneously. As long as you have a timer, you will not need to worry about over boiling. I like to cook the pasta al dente or under-boil, so that the pasta can absorb the sauce once I combine it afterwards.
Once you are done, let it cool and put on the latest Netflix docu-series as you get ready for a relaxing weekend. Leave comments if you have any suggestions or feedback about this recipe!