Spinach & Artichoke Mac N' Cheese Bake

Do I even have to explain why I made this? I've had this dish pinned on Pinterest for quite some time and was just waiting for the perfect excuse to make this giant tray of goodness.  J & I had some friends over this past weekend as almost a sendoff to our current house (though our friends don't realize this was probably the last gathering we would have at our current home) because J & I are moving!  Things aren't final yet...but once they are, I will be sure to update you all. 

I had pretty high expectations for this dish and let me tell you...it lived up to every single standard I had.  I'd go far enough to say the Budget Savvy Diva is a freaking genius.  You get all the flavors of Mac & Cheese (which you all know I love) but then throw in the spinach & artichoke and it reminds me of a dip. 

I made the full size dish and we literally have one serving left.  There were only 5 of us here total...it was that good! A few of them even said this was one of the best dishes of mine they have ever tasted! Too bad I can't take credit for it.  Overall, this dish was relatively easy to make. Follow my steps & you should have no problem! I CANNOT WAIT to make this again!

Spinach & Artichoke Mac N' Cheese Bake
Serves: 8
Cook time according to Budget Savvy Diva: 25 minutes
Cook time according to Rachel: 35-40 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? It got hectic for a minute, but tips below so you don't experience the same issues I did

16 oz shell pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
10 oz spinach (if frozen, squeeze excess liquid out when thawed)
1 13.5 can artichoke hearts rinsed & chopped
1 cup mozzarella, divided
1 tsp salt,
Cheese Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cups milk (I used skim)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

In a large stock pot, cook shells according to directions. 

While noodles cook, in a medium bowl, combine artichoke, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella, garlic & salt.

You will eventually be adding in 1/4 cup cooking water from the pasta. 

Mix thoroughly and set aside.

While the noodles continue to cook, time to tackle this cheese sauce. 

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat Melt butter.

Add in flour and mix until golden brown (or as seen above)

Very slowly add in milk.  Make sure to continuously stir.

It will clump up, but as you continue to stir and add milk, it will smooth out.

Add in pepper, mustard powder, & onion powder. Mix well.

Slowly add in cheese & again, continue to stir until completely blended in.

By now, your noodles should be done. Make sure when draining to set aside 1/4 cup of cooking water.

Add cooking water to spinach & artichoke bowl. 

Add spinach & artichoke mix to pot with noodles. Stir thoroughly.

Add in 80% of the cheese sauce & mix well.

Pour mix into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Make sure pasta is evenly distributed.

Pour on top the remaining cheese sauce then top with the parmesan cheese & the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted & golden brown. 

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