It’s the last week of our 2015 CSA season, so it seems like the perfect time to break out a truly decadent dish like this! This summer was all about crunchy kale salads and lightly cooked veggies but as the weather has cooled off we’ve discovered that kale is also great in a creamy sauce! I had some curly kale in the farm kitchen, but any variety we grow like lacinato or red Russian kale will be equally as good. This dish requires a few more steps than a lot of our recipes, but it’s worth it. This will make a nice sized casserole to serve about 6, but can also be doubled (freeze the extras). I recommend making over the weekend and enjoying the leftovers during the week. Serve with a salad or don’t – it’s up to you!
There’s really no way around the butter and cheese in this dish, I’ve tried making a “lighter version” but it’s not worth it. This recipe is Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese, we just added the kale. I love the cubed bread on top, but you can also use breadcrumbs which I have done in the past. I’ve also successfully frozen a pan of this. Just freeze unbaked, thaw, and bake as usual. Shockingly, you can also make a great gluten free version. I can only vouch for brown rice noodles and Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose flour as substitutions, but others may work.
There are a few key things to making this dish. Undercook the noodles. When you bake the mac and cheese, the noodles will cook even more so if you completely cook the noodles and then bake them you will have a very mushy dish. Add the kale to the cooking pasta for at least 5 minutes. It has a better texture in a baked dish when softened.
The sauce is a classic béchamel with cheese added at the end. It’s easy to pull off, just take your time whisking and be sure to heat the milk before you make the sauce.
Kale Mac and Cheese
4 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease pan
3 cups cubed bread (I used baguette)
3 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt + 1 tablespoon for boiling water
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound macaroni or other tube shaped noodle
1 bunch of kale, washed and cut into bite size pieces
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with one tablespoon salt. Cook pasta and kale together for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Make the sauce. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cups Parmesan. Stir the pasta and kale into the sauce.
Transfer the macaroni mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and then the bread cubes. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, or until the bread and cheese are browned.
Gluten free variation. I have made this dish gluten free using brown rice noodles, Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose flour, and Udi’s sandwich bread.