3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach
1 3/4 cups 1% milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1 cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni or penne
1. Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain and refresh under cold water; press out excess moisture.
3. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
4. Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking). Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
5. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, if necessary, then bake for 35 to 45 minutes
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