75g/2½oz unsalted butter
5 tablespoons plain flour
1½ teaspoons English mustard powder
775ml/27¼fl oz full-fat milk
175g/6oz extra-mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Several good gratings of nutmeg
300g/10½oz frozen spinach, defrosted and liquid squeezed out
400g/14oz small pasta, like macaroni
5 tablespoons stale breadcrumbs
40g/1½oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
Fill a large pan with water, add a tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil – you’re going to cook the pasta in this shortly.
In a medium pan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and mustard powder and season with salt and pepper. Stir over a medium heat for a few minutes, then add a good glug of the milk and whisk to combine. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking in-between additions to get a smooth, creamy sauce. Stir in the Cheddar cheese, paprika and nutmeg and remove from the heat. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper, if you like. Add the spinach into the sauce and, using a stick blender, blitz until smooth.
Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the packet, then drain well. Tip into the green sauce and stir well until everything is combined.
Arrange the coated pasta in an ovenproof dish and scatter with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake in the top of the oven for 20–25 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.
This sauce also makes an excellent cauliflower cheese. Chop your cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes, then drain and sit in a colander to allow the water to steam off (letting it dry ensures you won’t end up with a watery dish). Tip the cauliflower into the baking dish, cover generously with the sauce and sprinkle with grated Cheddar, then bake as per the macaroni and cheese instructions.
Extracted from Feed Your Family!: Exciting Recipes from Chefs in Schools by Nicole Pisani & Joanna Weinberg, published by Pavilion Books.
Photo credit: Issy Croker