Recipes, Soups, Salads & Sides

Mac & Cheese Casserole with Bacon & Kale

It’s officially comfort food season, and I can’t think of any dish that hits the spot more than my Mac & Cheese Casserole with Bacon and Kale. It has a creamy cheddar cheese sauce, crispy herbed breadcrumbs, bacon, and since it has kale, that means it’s healthy, right!? 

Cheese Sauce Resize

When I was a kid, the orange powder from the box was the only cheese sauce I knew about, but oh have times changed. To make the creamy cheddar cheese sauce melt some butter in a pot and cook it for a few minutes with some flour, this is known as a roux. Add some whole milk to the mixture and cook until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Now it’s time to add extra sharp cheddar cheese, one handful at a time. Make sure you whisk each handful of cheese until it melts, and then add the next handful, otherwise the sauce will get clumpy if you add too much at one time.

I am all about fall and winter flavors, so the base of the mac has some sage and thyme that is cooked with an onion until soft and translucent. Go ahead and boil some macaroni noodles in salted boiling water, but make sure to save some of the pasta cooking liquid in a cup before you drain the noodles. Add the noodles to the pot along with blanched and chopped kale and some cooked and chopped bacon. Pour over all of the cheese sauce and mix well. If the mixture looks a little thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out. 

Breadcrumbs Resize

To add some nice crunch and texture to the top of the casserole, toast some panko breadcrumbs in a non-stick pan for a few minutes. Toss in some freshly chopped thyme, parsley, and cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Transfer the macaroni mixture to a greased baking dish and broil for a few minutes until the top is bubbly and has some nice color. When finished, sprinkle some of the herbed breadcrumbs on top of the casserole and enjoy. 

Mac & Cheese Casserole with Bacon & Kale Recipe

theinspiredhome.com
INGREDIENTS

For the Casserole:

  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon each of freshly chopped thyme & sage
  • 3 cloves of garlic , minced
  • 1 pound of macaroni noodles, cooked
  • ½ cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 bunch of black/lacinato kale, blanched & chopped
  • 5 strips of cooked bacon, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 1.5 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper

For the Herbed Breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup Japanese style panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon each of freshly chopped thyme & Italian parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Couple cracks of fresh pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Remove the center stalks from the kale and blanch the leaves in salted boiling water for 90 seconds. Prepare and ice bath in a large bowl, remove the kale from the pot and submerge in cold water for 1 minute. Squeeze all the water out of the kale, finely chop it, and set it aside.
  2. Cook the bacon on a sheet tray in a 400 degree oven for roughly 15 minutes until crispy. Roughly chop and set aside.
  3. Make the herbed bread crumbs by melting the butter in a small non-stick pan and adding the remaining ingredients. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture is golden brown. 
  4. To make the cheese sauce, add the butter to a small sauce pan preheating over medium-low heat. When melted, add the flour and constantly whisk(or it will burn) until the mixture is medium blonde in color, about 5-6 minutes.  While whisking, slowly add the milk and raise the heat to medium. Keep whisking so no lumps form in the sauce and cook until the mixture gets rich, creamy, and a little thick, about 5-7 minutes. You know it's ready when the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Turn the heat to low and add a small handful of cheddar and whisk until it's incorporated, continue doing this until you have used all of the grated cheese. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and a couple cracks of fresh pepper.
  5. Cook the macaroni noodles in salted boiling water until ready. Save ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid then drain the pasta and set aside. Pre-heat a large pot over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, sage, thyme, along with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and a couple cracks of pepper. Cook for 5 minutes stirring often, add the garic, and cook another 4 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the drained pasta to the pot along with all of the cheese sauce. Mix very well, adding a few splashes of reserved pasta liquid if they mixture looks to thick. Add the cheddar cheese, chopped kale, bacon, and mix well. Taste the mixture, it might need another ½ teaspoon of salt.
  6. Pre-heat the broiler to high and spray a little non-stick spray in an 8x12 baking dish. Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to the baking dish and broil for 5 minutes until the top is nicely browned.  Take out of the broiler, top with some of the breadcrumbs, and enjoy!

Featured Products

COMMENTS
Featured Products
Featured Product Chef'n
Chef'n Kale, Chard, Collard Greens and Herb Stripper Shop Now
Featured Product Cast Iron 7-qt Round Cocotte in Grenadine
Cast Iron 7-qt Round Cocotte in Grenadine Staub Shop Now
Featured Product Cast Iron 12" x 8" Roasting Pan in Dark Blue
Cast Iron 12" x 8" Roasting Pan in Dark Blue Staub Shop Now
Featured Product Classic Honesuki Knife
Classic Honesuki Knife Shun Shop Now

Even more Recipes articles for you

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM @THEINSPIREDHOME_COM

THE INSPIRED HOME LIST

Get on the list for events, top secret content, and experts.