Kale Macaroni and Cheese in Homage to Woodberry Kitchen

By • January 18, 2014 22 Comments

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Author Notes: I had a dish like this for a birthday dinner at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, MD. It was an unusual choice for me, and just about everyone else at the table had local seafood. The dish just spoke to me, and it was perfect -- not too cheesy and not too dry. It was definitely kale-y, and it had just the right amount of crispiness on top. I played around with it all summer trying to replicate the dish, and this is what I came up with.healthierkitchen

Food52 Review: WHO: Healthierkitchen lives in Washington, D.C., where she teaches wholesome cooking practices.
WHAT: A penne and cheddar casserole made slightly bitter by the addition of lacinato kale.
HOW: In a large saucepan, combine melted butter with olive oil, flour, and milk, then stir in cheddar and Asiago cheese. Mix in lightly-blanched chopped kale and al dente penne pasta, then bake topped with breadcrumbs and Pecorino Romano until golden brown. Serve warm.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Few meals are as satisfying as a bowl of macaroni and cheese. This recipe takes the best parts of the cheesy classic -- melted cheddar and a breadcrumb finish -- and makes it more complex with the addition of earthy lacinato kale. It's simple enough to throw together on a weeknight, but interesting enough to keep you looking forward to the leftovers.
The Editors

Serves 4 to 6 as a main, 8 as a side dish

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus some to grease
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 15 to 20 ounces shredded cheese (I use a mix of mild and sharp aged cheddar and Asiago)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I like a mix of whole wheat and panko)
  • 1/2 cup grated or ground Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a large pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil, then blanch the kale in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Leaving the boiled water in the pot, use a slotted spoon to scoop the kale out of the water and into a strainer, and allow the excess water to drain. Let cool, then chop, removing and discarding the stems.
  3. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil, add the penne, and cook according to the package until just under al dente, then drain and set aside. The pasta is going to be baked, so you want it to be just under cooked at this stage.
  4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until the butter starts to foam. While whisking, add in the flour and continue whisking for another 2 minutes. Add the milk slowly while whisking continuously to make sure there are no lumps. Once you have a smooth texture, turn off the heat and add the cheese. Mix well until the cheese is melted, then add the kale, making sure it doesn't stay in clumps.
  5. Add the pasta to saucepan and combine with the cheese sauce. If your saucepan is not large enough, add the pasta and the cheesy kale mixture back into the drained pasta pot and mix well.
  6. Grease an 11- or 12-inch cast iron pan or other oven-proof baking dish with some oil. Transfer the pasta/cheesy kale mixture into it, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Pecorino Romano over the top.
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. If after 40 minutes this has not happened, raise heat to 400º F and check again after 5 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

More Great Recipes: Cheese & Dairy|Pasta|Vegetables|Breakfast & Brunch|Entrees

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Comments (22) Questions (0)


6 months ago akweyant

My family loved this dish so much I made it for my friend's family and they loved it, too! Thank you!


5 months ago healthierkitchen

Thanks for letting me know ak! ;)
So glad to help feed families!!


6 months ago petitbleu

Yum! This sounds wonderful. I think I'll try this with the kale rabe I found at the farmer's market last weekend.


6 months ago healthierkitchen

sounds great petitbleu!


6 months ago cookbookchick

This looks wonderful, Wendy. Congratulations!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

Thanks cbc!


6 months ago Sheila Crye

Could you use curly kale instead of lacinato kale? Looks delish!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

you can use any green, Sheila. I just really like lacinato. Even frozen works!


6 months ago cookinginvictoria

Congrats on the WC win! I love everything about this dish, and can't wait to try it. :)


6 months ago healthierkitchen

Thanks so much!


6 months ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Congratulation on the WC win! I've added roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and squash to mac & cheese, but never thought to add kale -- great idea!!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

I love butternut squash in it too, but then I feel like kids think your'e trying to trick them! I wish I could take credit for the kale idea, but it was all Spike Gjerde - I just really wanted to make it at home!


6 months ago inpatskitchen

YUM! Congrats on the Wildcard win!!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

Thanks Pat!


6 months ago Rivka

Yay for this winning the wildcard! xo.


6 months ago healthierkitchen

thanks Rivka!


6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Whoa! How did I miss this one?! Congratulations. ;o)


6 months ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Amazing recipe, congrats on the WC, I love adding greens to recipes!!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

I think collards are my favorite though. Those and chard I seem not to kill in my garden!


6 months ago meganvt01

Love woodberry and this recipe looks amazing!


6 months ago healthierkitchen

It is good, isn't it?


6 months ago healthierkitchen

I mean Woodberry Kitchen!