We Eat | Homemade Mac and Cheese with Ham & Kale

Mac and cheese is one of my favorite meals; in fact, it's probably what I would request for my last meal, if made right. There's no shortage of good mac and cheese in SF, but when I make it at home, I can make it just the way I like it. Actually, I like it in a variety of ways: made with squash, the ham version or even with some bacon. I don't eat boxed mac and cheese and always hoped it would be the same for my kids. So far, so good; they LOVED this mac and cheese. It was one of the first dinners (which I made a few weeks ago), that they not only ate, but seemed to really enjoy, George especially.


I tried a new version, this time made with white cheddar and kale. I haven't really hopped on the kale bandwagon but am fine with greens cooked down this way, so gave it a try. The babies even ate the kale, which even though it cooks down to almost nothing, I will chop it next time as it does become a bit stringy for them to get down.

I forgot to take a photo when it came out of the oven, so this is the next day just out of the fridge :) Oh, and NEVER turn the broiler on while you're multi-tasking. I know better...
Baked White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Kale and Ham
adapted from Good Life Eats recipe

1 lb. macaroni
4 tablespoon butter, divided
1/2 of a red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
3 cups 2% milk (use whole for richer version)
8 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated, plus more for topping
1 ounce parmesan, finely grated
dash nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
crushed red pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
8oz thick ham, chopped
3 1/2 ounces fresh kale, chopped (about a half a bunch)
1/3c panko breadcrumbs

Cook pasta one to two minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, melt 3tbsp butter in a dutch oven, then add the onion and saute until tender. Add the garlic and saute another minute, then whisk in flour and cook over medium heat until golden.  Slowly whisk in the milk while cooking over medium heat. Stir in the sharp white cheddar and parmesan cheese, whisking until melted and creamy. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt (keeping in mind that the ham will add more saltiness). Bring to a slow simmer, and then stir in the pasta, ham and kale.  Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. Sprinkle with additional white cheddar (I had a little regular cheddar that I used as well), if desired.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the breadcrumb and toast until golden. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the casserole. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

I love that it makes such a big batch -- both the babies and I ate on this for several days! I'll definitely try it with bacon too; I am just going through my freezer and had some ham in there I wanted to use up. Always love it with ham, but I think the bacon/kale combo would be great. Here's to many more mac and cheeses to come!

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