Tis the season for houseguests! Will and I had to amp up our kitchen repertoire while his parents are in town for Christmas and we kicked off with this extremely satisfying dish. As my faithful readers know, we try to eat as healthy as possible and we usually do a pretty good job of avoiding things that might be considered…gluttonous. But occasionally, you have to give in to some of the delectable pictures you see on your Pinterest boards and actually make one of those unhealthy recipes. This was one of those pretty-Pinterest not-so-healthy meals that I pinned once upon a time and probably thought we would never make. I will defend this mac ‘n cheese by saying it does not look anything like the processed yellow mac ‘n cheese that comes out of a blue box and it certainly tasted a lot healthier than that stuff too. That being said, I know it is not healthy, but white cheddar and kale with wheat macaroni noodles can give it the allusion of being better for you.
This dish also worked well for us because the way we reduced the recipe gave us four medium-large servings of the dish. However, it was the only thing we had, so it felt like the perfect portion size. We also discovered that if some members of your party are not in the house for the initial serving of the mac ‘n cheese–perhaps because they got stuck in a time warp in Mississippi–that it can easily be reheated for its second serving! Needless to say, despite this meal being an indulgence, it was a worthwhile recipe to try! I think next time we have guests, we will make this again because it was fairly straightforward to assemble and gratifying to eat.
Cooking Notes: We have a 2-qt. casserole dish, so we 2/3rded the recipe (or however you would say that). For ease, I’m going to include the full recipe below because it’s really challenging to do the math to 2/3rds everything. We used a regular onion instead of a purple onion and we did not use the breadcrumbs at the end. We also used 2% milk, not whole milk. Lastly, the recipe often called for whisking ingredients in–I however chose to just stir in everything because whisking didn’t seem to be having any kind of special effect on the mixture.
Baked White Cheddar Mac ‘N Cheese with Kale and Bacon (adapted from Good Life Eats; serves 6)
1 lb. macaroni
3 tbsp butter
1/2 of a purple onion, diced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
8 oz. sharp white cheddar, grated or cubed
A dash of nutmeg
A dash of cayenne pepper
Several cranks of fresh ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
6 oz. center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
Half a bunch of fresh kale, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup crushed croutons (optional)
Cook pasta one to two minutes less than the package instructions say to. Drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, cut the bacon pieces in half vertically and then into small bite size pieces. Cook until crispy. Then drain and set aside.
In a large French or Dutch oven (or pot), melt the butter. Saute the onion for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, or until tender and golden. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute or two, until fragrant. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat until golden. Slowly whisk in the milk while cooking over medium heat. Stir in the sharp white cheddar and parmesan cheese, whisking until melted and creamy. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and salt (if desired). Bring to a slow simmer, and then stir in the pasta, bacon and kale. Begin to preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Transfer the pasta mixture to a 3 1/2 quart oven safe casserole dish or cast iron pan. Sprinkle the top with the crushed croutons or additional cheese (if adding). Bake on center rack, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes until mixture is hot and bubbly. If cheese is sprinkled on top, take 1-2 minutes to broil casserole. Serve immediately.