Mac and cheese is a perennial favorite for a reason. You can quickly make a huge batch and reheat it as needed. It’s perfect filler for lunchboxes or to whip up for dinner. And you can throw in any old proteins or veggies you have lying around. And it gets eaten. Huzzah!
So! Easter and Passover just happened/are happening. My kiddo is at the age where he asks a lot of questions about everything, the deeper the subject, the better. The other day he hit me with, “Before I was born, where was I?”
Let me be clear: He was NOT asking where babies come from. He was asking a philosophical question about personhood. He wanted to know where his “self” resided before he had a body. He didn’t put it in those words, but that was the gist.
As you can imagine, religious holidays are tricky for us because this kid is constantly asking questions and we don’t always have great answers. “Why didn’t the Easter Bunny come to our house” was a little easier to handle than “Am I going to die?” but it was still tough! I stayed away from talking about religion and talked more about traditions, but I know that the questions are going to keep coming and get EVEN MORE complicated as his awareness grows.
Since parenting has required so much mental gymnastics for us lately, I want to keep dinner as simple as possible. So, Mac and Cheese!
As you may or may not know, I prefer a stovetop mac and cheese to the baked kind. I feel like the baking process can dry out the sauce, which is not tasty, IMO.
A couple of notes:
Do cook the kale a bit before pureeing. The more you cook the greens, the smoother the sauce will be. I only cook it for a few minutes though because I don’t want to lose too many of the nutrients.
Turn down the heat when making the sauce. It takes a bit longer, but will hopefully keep the milk solids from separating, which can make dairy-based sauces look curdled.
Kale mac and cheese
Time: About 25 minutes, mostly active
Yield: About 4 cups or 30 oz
1 lb small, dry pasta
1 bunch Lacinto kale, leaves stripped off of the tough center ribs
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk, divided (I used whole, but you can certainly use a lower fat variety if you like)
½ cup reserved pasta/kale cooking water
6-7 cups shredded cheese (combination of any nutty cheese like cheddar, gruyere, gouda, and Parmesan)
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt
Several cracks of black pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan. Add the flour, stir well, and let bubble for 1 minute.
Turn the heat down to medium-low, add 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, and whisk to combine.
Add garlic, salt, and pepper to the milk and stir to combine. Let the milk heat up until there are small bubbles forming along the sides of the pan, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted, allowing the cheese sauce to bubble slowly, but try not to get the sauce too hot, about 4-5 more minutes.
Remove pasta from boiling water and add kale to that same water. Blanch for 2 minutes and remove greens to a blender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Add the remaining ½ cup of milk to the green in the blender and puree until smooth, adding the reserved cooking water as necessary to puree the kale.
Add the greens to the cheese sauce and stir well. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer again.
When both are cooked, combine 2 cups of the sauce with the cooked pasta and stir well. Add any additional toppings you might like.