Mac & Cheese Casserole with Bacon & Kale Recipe

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
  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!