Kale Macaroni and Cheese in Homage to Woodberry Kitchen

By • January 18, 2014 • 0 Comments

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Author Notes: I had a dish like this for my birthday dinner last June at Woodberry Kitchen. It was an unusual choice for me, and just about everyone else at the table had various iterations of local crab or other seafood. This just spoke to me that night and so I went for it and it was perfect - not too cheesy and not too dry, definitely kale-y but not so assertively so, not so crunchy that you fear for your teeth but just the right amount of crispiness on top. I played around with this all summer trying to replicate the dish and this is what I came up with.healthierkitchen

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

  • 1 bunch Lacinato or Tuscan kale
  • 1 pound thin penne rigate
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 15 - 20 ounces shredded cheese, I use a mix of mild and sharp aged cheddar and asiago
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs ( I like a mix of whole wheat and panko)
  • 1/2 cup grated or ground Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blanch, drain and chop the kale.  This requires a large pot of boiling water, into which you drop the kale, scoop it out into a strainer set over a bowl of ice water.  Let cool, squeeze out all the water and then chop.  You can also thaw about a half bag of frozen kale in a strainer and then squeeze out the water.  I like to use my pasta pot for this step and then use it for cooking the penne.
  3. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil and add the penne and cook to just under al dente. The pasta is going to be baked also, so you want it to be just under cooked at this stage.
  4. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and olive oil until butter starts to foam and then whisk in the flour and whisk mixture for a few minutes.  Add the milk slowly and whisk 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 and then add the kale, making sure it doesn't stay in clumps.
  5. If the sauce pan is large enough, add the pasta into the cheese sauce, otherwise add the pasta and the cheesy kale mixture back into the pasta pot and mix well.
  6. Place into an 11 or 12 inch cast iron pan (though mine is well seasoned, I do hit it with a coating of cooking spray).  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and then the Pecorino cheese over the top.
  7. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes until bubbling and the top starts to brown.  If after 40 minutes this has not happened, raise heat to 400 degrees and check again after 5 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
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