- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for cooking water
- 1 pound cavatappi, elbow macaroni, or other small tubular pasta
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 10 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- 10 ounces brine-packed Greek feta, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and water squeezed out
- ½ cup finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 7 slices good white bread, pulsed in a food processor)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 × 13-inch baking dish.
2) Add the olive oil to a large pot of liberally salted boiling water. Add the pasta and cook for about 2 minutes less than the time in the package directions. The pasta should be very al dente (slightly underdone), as it will continue to cook in the cheese sauce in the oven. Drain the pasta in a colander, rinse under cold running water, drain again, and set aside.
3) Meanwhile, heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, taking care not to boil. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Continue to whisk constantly until the mixture smells slightly nutty (don’t brown the flour). Slowly pour in the hot milk, whisking as you pour, and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick and smooth. Remove from heat.
4) In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Slowly ladle about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour, to temper the eggs. Stir the egg mixture back into the remaining hot milk mixture. Set the pot over medium-low heat and stir in the Gruyère cheese, feta, 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Don’t allow the sauce to bubble or boil at this point; you just want to provide enough heat to melt the cheese. Once the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, remove from heat. Gently stir in the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and cooked pasta, making sure everything is well combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
5) In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Place the bread crumbs in a medium mixing bowl, and pour the melted butter over the bread crumbs. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and paprika, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes to cool, and serve hot.
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© 2017 Debbie Matenopoulos and Peter Capozzi
Recipe from the forthcoming updated paperback edition of It's All Greek to Me, available in January 2018.