This dish defines comfort food and I love adding a little cheese to the béchamel to give it a little more body and flavor.  I used a blend of cheeses “Quattro Formaggio” which you can find in the cheese section of your market.  It melts beautifully in the sauce, but you could also use another cheese if you prefer.  The baby spinach wilts quickly and tastes great with the basil.  I would select a curly pasta that the sauce can hug onto effectively and cook it al dente.  It seems like a lot of sauce, but it works best if pasta has lots of sauce.  You can also add the cooking juices from the chicken to the pasta for extra flavor when you drain the pasta before adding the béchamel.  I have included a link to my buttermilk marinated chicken and seasoned it with greek seasoning and oregano for this recipe.  You can add olive oil when you are baking it.  If you prefer a vegetarian dish, just eliminate the chicken.

Serves 4-6


for pasta and béchamel:

  • 1 lb favorite curly pasta
  • 1 large onion, finely dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • about 1 -1 1/2 cups shredded quattro formaggio
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 bunch thinly sliced basil, more for garnish
  • parmesan for serving
  • smoked paprika

for buttermilk chicken recipe click here


Set your pasta water to boil.  Meahwhile, in a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil on low heat.  Add onions and garlic and sauté on low heat for about 10 minutes until tender and fragrant stirring frequently to avoid burning.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat milk in microwave for about 2 minutes to warm.  In a medium skillet, melt remaining butter on medium heat and whisk in flour stirring constantly until flour becomes a paste.  Continue to whisk the mixture as you pour hot milk into the pan and increase heat bringing béchamel to a rolling boil and it begins to thicken as it simmers.  Reduce heat, add grated cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm while pasta boils.

Boil your pasta according to package directions to al dente doneness.  Drain and place pasta back in your pot.  Stir in warm béchamel to coat the pasta and add onion/garlic mixture and spinach to the warm pasta.  The spinach will wilt with warmth of sauce and pasta. Lastly stir in the basil.  Transfer the pasta to your serving dish, garnish with fresh basil leaves and sprinkle with parmesan and smoked paprika if using.  Serve alongside sliced chicken breast and enjoy immediately!