I’ve heard a lot about how good kale is for you, but other than making kale chips once or twice, I have no experience with it. I spotted this recipe in the January 2012 issue of Better Homes and Garden and I liked that it included kale. It seemed that with the cheese and pasta (very similar to my own macaroni and cheese recipe), this might be a great way of introducing kale to the kids as part of an actual dinner. The question was: would they like it?
This recipe consists of cooking your pasta and also the vegetables. The original called for corn and peas, but, while we do enjoy both, I thought it was a bit unnecessary in this dish. You also make a cheese sauce for this, just like I do for our homemade mac & cheese, except there is much less used. Also, with the addition of all the vegetables, you can get away with less pasta in this dish.
I made a batch of this the other day and I’m happy to report that not only did they like it, but it was such a hit that this will definitely be going into our regular menu rotation. Mattie did ask what the “green stuff” was, I told him it was kale and reminded him of the kale chips we had a while back. He remembered and was totally cool with it. Every single person in our house liked this and while we had leftovers, those were eaten the very next day too.
Here’s how I made it, which is slightly different than the original.
Veggie Loaded Pasta Bake
- 8 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 1/2 cups cauliflower florets 1/2 medium head
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 medium carrots sliced
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 12 ounces kale 12 cups, stems removed, leaves torn
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup fat free milk
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese 1 cup, shredded
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese shredded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions; add cauliflower during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain both the pasta and cauliflower. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium and saute onion and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook until carrots are tender-crisp. Add kale and fold into other vegetables are you are able, until the kale is wilted. Combine vegetables with the pasta.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper with a whisk to create a thick paste. Continue to stir and cook flour/butter mixture for a few minutes and no raw flour taste. Whisk in milk; and cook and stir very frequently until thickened and bubbly. Turn off heat and whisk in cheddar cheese. Whisk until cheese is fully melted and incorporated into the mixture.
Fold sauce together with the pasta/vegetable mixture. Spoon into a baking dish and cover with foil.. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Carefully remove foil cover; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes more.