Monday, August 30, 2004
CHEESE, SPINACH, AND NOODLE CASSEROLE
This is a plain, comforting dish, one of my favorites that my mom used to make when I was little. It's reminiscent of macaroni and cheese, but made more healthy and colorful by a bottom layer of spinach. It’s not much trouble to make, involves few ingredients, and is nice and cheesy yet still chock-full of vitamin-rich spinach—what’s not to like? (OK, the cottage cheese might sound weird, but it imparts a wonderful creaminess.) The way the cheese gets all brown on top is the best part. This would make a good side dish, although I always think of it as an entree because I like to eat it by giant bowlfuls.
Photogenic? No. Delicious? Yes!
1 10-to-16-ounce package frozen leaf spinach
4 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained (I use a bit more)
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. While boiling water to cook the noodles, cook the spinach according to the package directions.
3. Crack the eggs in a large mixing bowl, whisk them together with the milk, then add the cheddar, cottage cheese, salt, and nutmeg, and grind in lots of pepper. Mix everything up and set it aside. When the pasta water boils, add the noodles. When the spinach is defrosted, put it in a colander to cool slightly.
4. When the spinach isn’t scalding hot to touch, squeeze it dry with your hands. (This always annoys me—little spinach pieces get everywhere, and it seems to take forever; every time you think you must be done, more liquid comes out of that freakishly sodden spinach. Still, it’s important to do, or else the casserole will be too watery.)
5. Generously butter a 2-quart casserole dish (I used one that had a lid, but it’s OK to use a lidless one if you have aluminum foil at the ready) and spread the painstakingly drained spinach across the bottom. When the noodles are cooked, drain them and spread them atop the spinach. Give the egg-cheese mixture a final stir and pour it evenly over the noodles, then add a final grinding of pepper, put on the lid (or tin foil), and set the casserole in the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
6. Take off the lid and bake until set and brown. The recipe says this should be about 15-20 minutes more, but I may have gone slightly longer than that in the interest of getting a brown, crusty top. (Use your judgment. You don’t want to dry out the casserole too much, or get it too brown on the bottom.) Take it out of the oven and let it sit about 5 minutes to cool and set, then serve.
Time: 45 minutes (mostly baking time)