Want a satisfying crowd-pleaser meal you can make in 20 minutes? Of course! It's the week before Christmas. Dubbed "Christmas Mac and Cheese" by my four year old, the smoky speck, garlicky spinach, and creamy parmesan cream sauce makes this a bowl of comforting cheesy goodness.
Tis the season for Mac and Cheese
I'm a teacher and a parent, so the week before Christmas is beyond hectic. My students are bouncing off the walls, my children are amped up on treats from their grandparents and class parties.
I keep legitimately losing our Elf on the Shelf, and we are busy cramming our weekends with family winter fun, shopping, and hosting family and friends.
Don't get me started on HOSTING Christmas Eve, wrapping gifts, and assembling big toys all in the same night. I am usually still annoyingly ambitious during the workweek at times, but these weeks leading up to Christmas have me spent.
This is one of many quick-cooking meals I came up with during my after-work panic when I realized I didn't have anything planned.
Speck: Bacon's fancy cousin
Citterio Cubetti Speck will be something I keep in my fridge for emergency dinner nights from now on. Have you ever used Speck before? I hadn't. It's slowly smoked prosciutto that is conveniently cubed and sold in 4oz containers, and it is the perfect addition to a meal that would call for something like crumbled bacon.
Speck is like bacon's cooler, the fancier older relative with a mysteriously large Instagram following. I was shocked by how much flavor came from such a small package. Its smokiness gets you first, but Citterio's prosciutto shines with its salty fattiness that is way more indulgent and sophisticated compared to bacon.
You can't make mac and cheese with bacon for guests. Alfredo Macaroni and Cheese with sauteed spinach and Cubetti Speck? Of course. How fancy. Find the simple, done in 20 minutes, one pot and one pan, make-ahead optional recipe below.
For another healthy twist on Mac and Cheese, try my Three Cheese Cauliflower Mac! As a bonus, you can at least trick your kids into eating more veggies!
DwardCooks Alfredo Mac and Cheese with Cubetti Speck
- 4 oz. Citterio Speck Cubetti
- 7 cups Cashew Milk unsweetened no sugar added
- 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
- 14.5 oz Barilla ProteinPlus Pasta Elbows
- 1.75 oz Parmesan Cheese Grated
- 6 oz Trader Joe’s Lite Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 oz Neufchatel Cheese
- 6 cups Fresh Spinach
- 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Pepper
- Add 6c of cashew milk and 1 tbsp of kosher salt to a pot, and cook the pasta directly in the cashew milk.
- In a bowl (or shaken in a jar) combine the flour and remaining cup of cashew milk. Slowly stir into pasta pot. Bring to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally. You should see the cashew milk thicken.
- Heat a pan and add the speck. Saute speck until the fat starts to render (about 3 minutes)*. Add minced garlic and spinach. Using tongs, toss spinach until spinach is wilted (about 2-3 minutes)
- If your kids hate spinach but like the idea of eating “Christmas bacon mac and cheese” as my oldest called it, reserve some spinach-free speck for them before adding the spinach.
- While spinach cooks, fold in all the cheese to pasta pot. It is easiest to do this one cheese at a time. Start with the cream cheese to make sure it is fully melted before adding Parmesan. End with the mozzarella because it is stringy.
- Mix in the spinach and speck. Taste the pasta with the speck and spinach before adding salt, pepper, or garlic powder. The flavors are strong and can be easily over seasoned.
- Optional: finish mac and cheese in a broiler until golden brown. Alternatively, you can make this ahead of time and reheat in the oven at 350, covered, for about 25-35 minutes.