Baked mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food, gets a Greek-style twist with spinach, creamy feta cheese, fresh parsley, and a luxurious bechamel sauce. A delicious baked pasta casserole to feed a crowd!

Piece of Spanakopita Mac and cheese on a blue plate, showing the layer of spinach, onion, and herb mixture in the center and the golden brown curst. The casserole dish is in the background.
Photo Credits: Andrea Gralow

When I was working on an egg muffin recipe for first cookbook inspired by the classic Greek savory feta and spinach pie Spanakopita, I started imagining everything I would like to “spanakopita-ify" and baked mac and cheese was at the top of the list! 

This comforting baked pasta casserole is a hybrid of two of my favorite Greek comfort foods: Spanakopita and Pastitsio, plus the velvety goodness of homemade mac and cheese from my adopted home in the southern United States. 

The result? A mash-up of comfort foods from totally different cultures: a velvety mac and cheese loaded with spinach and feta for that Mediterranean kick. It makes for a perfect marriage of the ultimate luxury and the wildest flavor party. Although it is not heavily melty, it’s a delicious baked pasta.

And, with extra virgin olive oil replacing the butter and low-fat milk replacing the cream, it’s lighter than the incredibly rich original–more like the pasta version of Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach Rice). Make this baked mac and cheese recipe for a refreshing twist on the classic vegetarian main this holiday season, or simply to bake some extra comfort into your weeknight dinner routine.

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for Spanakopita Mac and Cheese
  2. How to Thaw Frozen Spinach
  3. How to Make This Baked Mac and Cheese 
    1. Get Ready
    2. Make the Greek Béchamel
    3. Layer and Bake
  4. What to Serve with Baked Mac and Cheese
  5. More Holiday Vegetarian Mains
  6. Save When You Bundle Our Best-Selling Olive Oil Collection!
  7. Spanakopita Mac and Cheese Recipe
Ingredients for Spanakopita Mac and Cheese including thyme, garlic, onions, eggs, nutmeg, olive oil, feta cheese, parsley, mozzarella, breadcrumbs, and flour.


Ingredients for Spanakopita Mac and Cheese

The ingredient list for this baked mac and cheese recipe may seem long, but it’s mostly filled with pantry ingredients you likely have on hand. You’ll need: 

  • Pasta: Macaroni or elbow pasta is traditional, but you can use any small pasta of your choice.
  • Seasonings: This dish is seasoned simply with kosher salt and black pepper to enhance the flavor and a touch of nutmeg to bring a warming and aromatic quality. 
  • Frozen spinach: A great way to pack in loads of spinach with little effort (just make sure it’s thawed and dried very well). If you’d like to substitute with fresh spinach, cook down about 2 pounds, stirring with a dash of olive oil, until wilted.
  • Fresh aromatics and herbs: Yellow onion and garlic bring a sweet and savory depth of flavor. Fresh parsley and thyme pack the herbaceous quality that’s made Greek spanakopita so loved. 
  • Cheese: Use a whole block of feta preserved in brine, as it tends to be higher quality than pre-crumbled. Freshly grate a whole block of mozzarella as well, rather than buying pre-grated. Low-moisture mozzarella is ideal (the kind wrapped in plastic, not preserved in brine), as very milky mozzarella tends to get watery when it’s baked. 
  • Breadcrumbs: Make the crunchy topping. Use unseasoned dried breadcrumbs to let the flavor of the fresh herbs shine. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil: I swap butter for olive oil, which not only lightens the dish but also imparts a more enticing flavor. Use a full-bodied extra virgin olive oil with a pleasantly smooth flavor, like our Greek Early Harvest.
  • All-purpose flour: Thickens the béchamel sauce. 
  • Milk: I used low-fat 2% milk for a slightly lighter béchamel sauce. If you’d like an extra rich dish you can substitute with whole milk.
  • Eggs: The addition of eggs is what makes the béchamel sauce Greek-style, giving it a luxurious richness and velvety texture. 
Side shot of Spanakopita Mac and cheese in a baking dish with a piece that has been removed.


How to Thaw Frozen Spinach

You have three options to thaw frozen spinach: in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or in a bowl of water. (You can thaw spinach at room temperature, but you cannot exceed two hours without risking bacterial growth.)

  • In your refrigerator: This is the easiest method, you just need to plan ahead. Keep the spinach in its package, place it on a plate, and transfer it to the refrigerator to thaw for a few hours (or overnight).
  • In water: Make sure the bag is sealed or transfer the frozen spinach to a sealable bag. Submerge the bag in cold water until the spinach has thawed (about an hour or so). 
  • In the microwave: Place the frozen spinach in a microwave safe bowl and use the defrost or low setting. Microwave in bursts, stirring between each interval, until the spinach is no longer frozen.
Fork pulling up a bite of Spanakopita Mac and cheese, showing the crispy breadcrumbs and melted cheese pulling from the casserole.


How to Make This Baked Mac and Cheese 

The creamy, velvety béchamel sauce is the best part of this baked mac and cheese recipe. It takes some concentration but is well worth the effort. Just make sure to have everything chopped and ready to go beforehand so you start so you can whisk away stress-free. Here’s how you make it:  


Get Ready

  • Get yourself set up. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. 
  • Prep your ingredients. Warm 4 cups of low fat milk over low heat or in your microwave (room temperature is fine, you just don’t want it to be fridge-cold or it’ll sputter). Drain and wring out 1 pound of thawed frozen spinach. Finely chop a yellow onion. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Chop enough parsley leaves to yield 1 cup, and enough thyme leaves for 1 teaspoon. Grate enough mozzarella for 1 cup. 
  • Cook the pasta. Season the boiling water generously with kosher salt. Add 12 ounces of pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes), then drain and return to the pot. Set aside off the heat.
  • While the pasta boils, make the spinach and feta filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the spinach, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through and the onions have softened (about 5 minutes). Add the parsley, thyme, and 1 ½ cups of crumbled feta. Toss to combine, then turn off the heat. spinach, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme and feta cheese stirred together in a skillet.


Make the Greek Béchamel

  • Make a roux. In a large saucepan, heat ⅓ cup olive oil over medium. Once it’s shimmering (but before smoking), stir in ⅔ cup flour, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Stir constantly until the color is deeply golden, 1 to 2 minutes. It will look like thick paste but if it’s too dry or lumpy just add a little more olive oil.
  • Add the milk. Gradually whisk in the warmed milk. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until it’s thickened enough to coat a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. 
  • Temper the eggs. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until fully homogeneous. Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in a small ladle of the hot béchamel. 
  • Incorporate the eggs. Add the tempered eggs to the béchamel while whisking constantly. Continue to stir or whisk the mixture, bringing it to a simmer for just 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool and thicken a little more. You should have a creamy, thick and smooth béchamel sauce.Greek Béchamel sauce in a pot, showing its thick and creamy consistency.


Layer and Bake

  • Coat the pasta. Pour half of the béchamel sauce and all of the grated mozzarella over the drained pasta. Mix with a wooden spoon so the pasta is well-coated. If needed, add a small drizzle of olive oil to help mix it well. Set aside for now. Cooked elbow pasta coated in Greek Béchamel sauce and mozzarella cheese.
  • Start layering. To the prepared baking dish, add half of the pasta mixture in one even layer. Spread the spinach and feta mixture over top.spinach, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme and feta cheese mixture spread on top of the elbow pasta in a large baking dish.
  • Finish the casserole. Add the remaining pasta mixture followed by the remaining béchamel. Be sure to spread the top layer of béchamel sauce evenly over the pasta. Finish with ½ cup crumbled feta and 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Greek Béchamel Sauce spread on top of pasta in a baking dish with crumbled feta cheese and breadcrumbs on top.
  • Bake. Place the mac and cheese on the center rack and bake until warmed through and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Spanakopita Mac and cheese after it has been baked in the oven, showing the golden brown edges and spots on top.
  • Rest and serve. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly minced parsley and serve.
Overhead shot of a spatula removing a slice of Spanakopita Mac and cheese.


What to Serve with Baked Mac and Cheese

Though this is lighter than your traditional mac and cheese, it’s still a rich, comforting dish that doesn’t need any sides. For a luxurious Sunday dinner, serve on its own or with a crisp Maroulosalata on the side for freshness (I would personally skip the feta cheese on the salad so as not to overdo it). 

If you’re serving as a holiday side or vegetarian main, serve with a festive spread of Mediterranean twists on classic holiday dishes. Garlic and herb roast turkey breast, oven roasted carrots with sumac, brussels sprouts salad, za'atar bread rolls all come to mind.

More Holiday Vegetarian Mains

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4.91 from 11 votes

Spanakopita Mac and Cheese

Suzy Karadsheh
Piece of Spanakopita Mac and cheese, showing the layer of spinach, onion, and herb mixture in the center and the golden brown curst.
Classic mac and cheese gets a Greek style twist with this comforting and flavor-packed recipe inspired by the classic Greek feta cheese and spinach savory pie. Serve as a refreshing take on a classic vegetarian main or holiday side dish. Or, simply bake some extra comfort into your weeknight routine.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 50 minutes
Total – 1 hour
Cuisine:
American, Greek
Serves – 12 pieces
Course:
Entree or Side Dish

Ingredients
  

  • 12 ounces elbow pasta (or small pasta of your choice)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and rung out
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) crumbled feta cheese, divided
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

For the Greek Béchamel

  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups low fat milk, warmed
  • 2 large eggs

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. (If you haven’t warmed your milk yet, do this now.)
  • Cook the pasta. Season the boiling water generously with kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes), then drain and return to the pot. Set aside off the heat.
  • While the pasta boils, make the spinach and feta filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the spinach, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through and the onions have softened (about 5 minutes). Add the parsley, thyme, and 1 ½ cups of the feta. Toss to combine, then turn off the heat.
  • Start the Greek Béchamel. In a large saucepan, heat the ⅓ cup olive oil over medium heat. Once it’s shimmering (but before smoking), stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir constantly until the color is deeply golden, 1 to 2 minutes. It will look like a thick paste but if it’s too dry or lumpy just add a little more olive oil.
  • Add the milk. Gradually whisk in the warmed milk. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until it’s thickened enough to coat a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Temper the eggs. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until fully homogeneous. Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in a small ladle of the hot béchamel.
  • Incorporate the eggs. Add the tempered eggs to the béchamel while whisking constantly. Continue to stir or whisk the mixture, bringing it to a simmer for just 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool and thicken a little more. You should have a creamy, thick and smooth béchamel sauce.
  • Coat the pasta. Pour half of the béchamel sauce and all of the mozzarella cheese over the drained pasta. Mix with a wooden spoon so the pasta is well-coated. If needed, add a small drizzle of olive oil to help mix it well. Set aside for now.
  • Assemble the spanakopita mac and cheese. To the prepared baking dish, add half of the pasta mixture in one even layer. Spread the spinach and feta mixture over top, then add the remaining pasta mixture followed by the remaining béchamel. Be sure to spread the top layer of sauce evenly over the pasta. Finish with the remaining ½ cup crumbled feta and the bread crumbs.
  • Bake. Place the mac and cheese on the center rack and bake until warmed through and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  • Rest and serve. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly minced parsley. Slice into 12 square pieces and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Make sure to drain and wring out the spinach very well, otherwise it will release too much water when you cook it with the onion. 
  • Use a low-moisture mozzarella as it’s better for melting. Opt for whole blocks of mozzarella and feta cheese if you can–they tend to have a better flavor than pre-crumbled or pre-grated.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 370.7kcalCarbohydrates: 36.7gProtein: 15.6gFat: 18.2gSaturated Fat: 6.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 8.4gTrans Fat: 0.003gCholesterol: 60.8mgSodium: 533.1mgPotassium: 410.6mgFiber: 2.7gSugar: 5.7gVitamin A: 5224.6IUVitamin C: 9.9mgCalcium: 345.6mgIron: 2.3mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My family loved this Mac n cheese (we love FETA). We rarely have milk in the house anymore as we just don't drink it before it expires. We have a nut milk machine to make the small amount that we do use. Made an almond milk Bechemel and it was delicious-gave a nutty flavor that was lovely. We thought a bigger bread crumb might be better so we will try it next time. Looking forward to lunch this week.

    1. Hi, Teresa! Yes, you can use fresh spinach, but remember that frozen spinach has already been blanched, so you'll need a lot more fresh spinach (two to three times, I believe). You'll want to chop and cook the spinach down before use.

  2. 4 stars
    This is a beautiful dish and I will definitely make it again. When I do, I think I will make the bechamel with butter instead of olive oil. I may try some dill to brighten up the flavor a bit as well. Still quite the favorite, lots of compliments.

  3. Going to fix this tomorrow for our meatless Monday. It sounds so good but I have to say "bacon bits" kept entering my mind when reading 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I think I ate at least one serving tasting this! Interesting switch for the bechamel. I've prepared it up to topping with breadcrumbs. Will do this and bake tomorrow....do it all the time with other pasta recipes. You may be tempted to adjust the seasonings in the bechamel.....taste WITH spinach/feta mixture first before adding salt : )