This is the perfect cozy dish for a cold, rainy fall day. In Chicago, we’ve been enduring a sodden two days, and adorable tots dressed as pirates, princesses and monsters had to seek indoor trick or treating options in apartment buildings and shopping malls. I don’t have to tell you that when we were kids, we ran around in that rain, and returned home triumphant with a hefty, if wet load of candy.
Meanwhile, I came home late, and decided I wanted to cook up some homemade mac and cheese, with a heavy hand on the cheese – and the kale. This is the kind of comfort food you throw together with bits and bobs of whatever greenery and cheese you have on hand. Cook and bake, and in 40 minutes, you’ve got some killer comfort headed straight for your belly.
Kale and Broccoli Mac
Serves 6 as a main dish
12oz gluten free elbow macaroni
3 strips of bacon, diced
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ onion, minced
1 bunch kale, rinsed, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
1 ½ cups broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
3 T butter
½ cup half and half
¼ cup almond milk*
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
3 T cream cheese
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (Kerrygold cheddar is my favorite), divided
salt & pepper to taste
*hint, if your fridge is stocked better than mine, just use ¾ cup of whole milk in place of the half & half/almond milk blend
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
- Boil a large pot of salted water, then cook the pasta according to the package directions until it’s al dente, perhaps a minute shy of the package instructions. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.
- While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the diced bacon and cook 1-2 minutes until some of the fat starts to render. Add the kale, broccoli, garlic and onion and stir together. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the kale is tender, then turn off the burner, and set the pan of kale aside.
- Strain the pasta, and run under cold water to stop the pasta from cooking. Pour drained pasta into a large bowl and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- Return pasta pot to the burner over medium heat and add butter. When the butter has melted, add the milk, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and ⅓ of the cheese. Whisk constantly until the cheese dissolves and is incorporated with the milk. Add another ⅓ of the cheese and continue whisking. Add half of the pasta water and add the cream cheese in small dollops. Continue whisking for another 3-5 minutes until cream cheese is incorporated and sauce thickens slightly.
- Pour the pasta back into the pot and stir to coat with the sauce. Add the kale and broccoli mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Taste, and add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the whole mixture into the buttered casserole dish, and top with remaining ⅓ cup of cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, then serve.
Disclaimer: These aren’t the best photos, but sometimes, you just want to snap a quick pic with your phone, and when a friend pleads for the recipe later, you get what you get…this mac is no less delicious for the poor lighting in my kitchen.