Yes, adding kale can justify mac and cheese being “healthier”, can’t it? Please say yes because that’s what my conscience was telling me when I wanted to combine two of my top 25 foods all in one pot. Perhaps I’m making up lost time as a kid when all I wanted to eat was mac and cheese, but instead I was fed a healthy diet of fresh fish, greens and rice. Oh, the “trauma” of eating fresh homemade food during childhood.
Please, let me explain.
As a hungry kid growing up in a family with five younger siblings, we add suffered from the pain of growing up in two cultures. When I say “pain”, it’s from the perspective of a thirteen year old who was always hungry for American foods. Granted, we never were actually hungry because my parents had a whole backyard of garden fresh vegetables and herbs. Practically every meal we ate was homemade, 50% homegrown and always fresh.
Fresh and homegrown were bad words back then when my siblings and I were growing up. Why? Because all we wanted to eat were mac and cheese, hamburgers, french fries and pizza. As kids, not only was it torture to have to help out in the garden and pull weeds every weekend when we wanted to play Atari, but it was even more torture to have to eat all the greens that my parents grew.
Yuck. That’s all we could think of every day for three meals a day. That amounted to 21 meals a week that had to be homemade and fresh. But we ate everything my parents put in front of us or else we’d starve.
The pangs of hunger and cravings for cheesy mac and cheese were only satisfied once a month. And that was in the form of the boxes of Kraft mac and cheese. If it was on sale, then my Mother would treat us to three boxes. Now if you did the math, that would mean three boxes between six kids, which meant that after it was all cooked, each kid only had about 1.5 cups of mac and cheese.
Yes, we were all good at math, including the two year old twins who knew how to count out exactly their fair share of 1.5 cups of Kraft mac and cheese.
So, now as an adult, I often have cravings for this comfort dish and always remember how little I had it growing up and am now making up for all those childhood years of lost mac and cheese dinners. So what does all mean?
Now that you know my childhood struggle, you can now join me and enjoy a big bowl of kale mac and cheese for me. And I’ll enjoy a few bowls of this creamy goodness myself.
Creamy Kale Mac and Cheese Recipe
Yield: Serves 6-8
Total Time: 40 min
Yes, you can certainly bake this dish to cook the macaroni into the cheese a bit more like I did in my past Broccoli Mac and Cheese Recipe. But if you're an impatient eater like me, this stove top version will be equally satisfying. Cook based on how patient (and hungry) you are. If you choose to finish it off in the oven then pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the mac and cheese in an oven proof vessel for about 20 minutes.
- 16 ounces pasta (penne, elbow macaroni or shells)
- 1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- about 1/2 cup of extra cheese for topping (optional)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- kosher or sea salt, to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- In large pot, boil water and cook pasta to package instructions. Rinse pasta with cold water and allow to cool.
- Heat the same large pot on medium heat, melt butter and add onion. Cook onions until soft, then add flour. Stir the flour quickly to combine the flour and onion roux mixture. Add milk and chicken broth.
- Allow mixture to come to a gentle boil and sauce will thicken. Return heat to low and add cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. Continue stirring gently until all the cheese is melted.
- Add the kale and pasta to cheese mixture. Gently stir together until the pasta is heated through and kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add extra cheese and bread crumbs on top.
- Serve warm.
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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.