Baked Mac and Cheese. (Ken BurrisEatingWell / October 24, 2013)

Mac and cheese can be a true comfort on a gloomy day, and our healthy update takes advantage of extra-sharp Cheddar balanced with creamy low-fat cottage cheese and tucks a layer of spinach into the middle, which may help picky eaters down their vegetables. Whole-wheat pasta adds robust flavor and extra fiber.

Baked Mac and Cheese

Makes 4 servings.

Active Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

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.