A delicious twist on a comforting family favourite!
My family has always loved homemade mac ‘n cheese and it’s no wonder. After all, isn’t it just like a warm, creamy, comforting, satisfying hug in a bowl? I tend to always use the same basic recipe I developed years ago and then experiment with lots of different additions; this week’s new combination really hit it out of the park. In the right proportions, the simmered, tender kale adds a nice pop of colour and flavour, without overwhelming the dish. And bacon – why not? I like to prepare this in single-serving casserole dishes which is a great way to ensure everyone gets their fair share of bacon; individual portions are also ideal as a make-ahead option for busy families with staggered mealtimes.
- 2 cups (500 mL) small pasta (macaroni or shells are great)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (500 mL) milk
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) smoked or regular paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups (500 mL) grated extra old white cheddar
- 2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped kale leaves, stems removed
- 1 cup (250 mL) diced cooked bacon
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) bacon fat or butter, melted
- Cook noodles in a medium pot of salted, boiling water until just tender.
- While noodles are cooking, make cheese sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in milk, paprika and a dash of salt & pepper.
- Simmer, stirring often, for 4 minutes, until smooth and thickened. Stir in the grated cheese until blended, then stir in the kale. Let simmer on low for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Prepare topping in a small bowl by combining breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons melted bacon fat or butter. Set aside.
- Add the drained macaroni to the sauce, stirring to mix well. Pour half the mixture into a greased 8 inch (20 cm) square casserole dish (or four 1.5 cup/375 mL oven-safe dishes), then sprinkle with half the bacon bits. Top with remaining noodle and sauce mixture, then sprinkle remaining bacon bits and breadcrumbs evenly over top.
- Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are browned & cheese sauce is bubbly. (You’ll need to bake a bit longer if you’ve prepared the mac ‘n cheese ahead of time and refrigerated.)