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Hearty Bacon-Kale Macaroni and Cheese

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Serves 6

  • by Tasha DeSerio from Fine Cooking
    Issue 115

Mac and cheese, the ultimate winter comfort-food dish, is made even more rib-sticking with the addition of smoky bacon and hearty greens.

Make it Your Own: Use the Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Maker to create a recipe with the pasta, cheeses, spices, herbs, meats, and vegetables you love.

For the Topping:
  • 1 small garlic clove, mashed into a paste or pressed (optional)
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups coarse, fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
For the Macaroni:
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 5 oz. finely grated Cantal
  • 5 oz. finely grated fontina
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. mostaccioli pasta
  • 2 cups sautéed, drained and chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup diced, cooked bacon
Make the Topping:

If using the garlic, stir it into the butter. Put the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and drizzle the butter over the crumbs. Add a pinch of salt and the Parmigiano-Reggiano  (if using). With your hands, toss well to combine. Set aside.

Make the Macaroni:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk over low heat for 3 minutes—the butter and flour should gently bubble and froth without coloring. Slowly add the milk, while whisking constantly. Be sure to whisk around the edges of the pan to get all the lumps. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream, about 6 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking constantly. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and gently whisk in the Cantal, fontina, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season to taste with salt. Keep warm.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the mostaccioli and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 1 minute less than indicated on the package. Drain well and return to the pot.

Add the cheese sauce, kale, and bacon to the pasta and gently stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish and evenly scatter the reserved breadcrumbs on top. Bake at 350°F until the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Variations

For individual servings: choose small baking dishes that hold 1-1/2 to 2 cups each. You can fill them to within about 1/2 inch of the rim. The number of servings will, of course, depend on the volume of your baking dishes.

Serving Suggestions

Start the meal with simple Garden Lettuces with Garlic Chapons, and if there's still room for dessert after the macaroni and cheese, try the Oranges in Cardamom Syrup with Honey Whipped Cream.
 

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 850; Fat (g): 42; Fat Calories (kcal): 370; Saturated Fat (g): 24; Protein (g): 38; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): 79; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 1400; Cholesterol (mg): 115; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This was great. I used sharp cheddar instead of Cantal, and couldn't tell the difference. I also microwaved the bacon because I was in a hurry. Quite the expedient and filling weekday meal!

Prepared this recipe yesterday. Great comfort food on a cold rainy day. Wonderful balance of flavors -- heartier than your average mac & cheese. Husband loved it. The recipe would have been more useful if it had specified uncooked amounts of kale and bacon. Actually, not having cooked much with kale, sauteing technique and length of time to cook kale would have been helpful, too. It would have give me a better idea of the time investment in the overall recipe.

This recipe takes quite a bit of time to prepare -- with all the steps of preparing the bread crumbs, cooking and chopping the bacon and kale, preparing the cheese sauce and pasta etc. But in the end it was really tasty and a delight to eat.

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