Southern staple with a twist (Kale Mac & Cheese)

If my blog has established anything, it’s that I have a longstanding love of kale. I have no idea where it came from, since I never tried kale until about a year ago. But I was in love at first bite. I’m always pinning various kale salad recipes on Pinterest, knowing I probably won’t get around to trying them since making dressing and eating salads isn’t so much my thing. But the second I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it right away. First, because it had kale. Second, because I have been working up the courage to try that most comfort-y of Southern comfort foods—baked mac & cheese.

Real, baked mac & cheese isn’t something I grew up with. Mac & cheese in my family was made on a stove with Velveeta, and usually some hamburger or tuna thrown in. Delicious, but not the real Southern dish. I’ve been a little scared of making it myself, because I’ve never made a roux and worried about how it would turn out. After pinning like 30 different mac & cheese recipes, this one finally convinced me to take the plunge.

The recipe calls for Tuscan or dinosaur kale, but I used curly and that worked just fine.

Tear the leaves off the stems, then tear or slice into small ribbons.

There’s not an exact amount, I would actually use more next time.

Heat the olive oil and saute the kale. Wilt for 6-8 minutes.

Remove the kale from the pan and place in a bowl to the side. At this point, make sure your cheese is grated—I didn’t, and had a super panic moment while making the roux, when I needed to add the cheese and it wasn’t ready.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter.

When melted, add the flour and whisk for a minute or two (gets rid of the raw flour taste). Yay for making a roux!

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly and making sure there’s no lumps. Bring to a simmer…

While you’re making the roux, bring a pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta for two less minutes than the package says (you want it very al dente, since the pasta will continue to cook in the oven).

Drain the pasta and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Put the pasta in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, you have your grated cheese, since you were smarter than I was and grated it before you started the roux.

When your roux is simmering, add the cheese to the milk/butter/flour mixture and whisk together until entirely melted and smooth.

Pour the cheese sauce in the big bowl with the paste.

Add your wilted kale as well, and stir it all together.

Spray a pan and pour the noodle and cheese mixture in.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, you want the cheese bubbling and the breadcrumbs nice and browned on top. It came out great! I could still taste some of the flour in the sauce, so will whisk a little more next time. It was awesome fresh, though kind of dry leftover. Any ideas on how to keep the kale looking bright green instead of the yellow-y green from baking? And I’ll try to make it a little creamier next time. But everything worked well for a first try.


  • 1 bunch kale (recipe called for Tuscan/dinosaur kale but I used curly)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pound  macaroni, penne or ziti (recipe called for whole wheat but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk (whole, lowfat or fat-free)
  • 4 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded (or substitute gruyere, fontina or any combination of cheese you prefer; I used fontina & yellow cheddar)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs

Strip the kale leaves from their stems and tear/chop the kale leaves into very fine ribbons. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the kale. Saute the kale about 6-8 minutes or until significantly wilted, then set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, then add the salt and pasta and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions (you want the pasta to be very al dente, since it will continue cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta, and put in a large bowl, set aside. While you’re cooking the pasta (or after, if you can’t multitask), melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, add the flour and whisk together to make a roux. Cook the butter-flour mixture about 1 minute to get rid of the raw flour taste, then slowly start adding the milk, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a simmer, making sure there are no lumps. Add the shredded cheese and whisk until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix well. Stir in the kale and a generous amount of pepper and stir again. Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray (9×13 works, or any dish around that size). Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake about 40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are nicely browned. Serve immediately.

Original recipe here:



  1. I have been challenged to find some good recipes using kale – this looks worth a try! (and the kids will eat it!)



  1. […] have a secret. I’ve never made a non-lasagna baked pasta dish (with the exception of the kale mac & cheese I made a few weeks ago). It’s weird, actually, given how much my diet has relied on pasta […]


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