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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!?
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.
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.
For the Casserole:
For the Cheese Sauce:
For the Herbed Breadcrumbs: