Several years ago when I was living in New York City, one of my friends took me to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Shop for happy hour. She convinced me to try their famous mac n’ cheese so I ordered their kale and sweet pepper version and my life was changed. It blew my foodie mind. Gooey and decadent, with just enough heat, it had all the characteristics of classic comfort food. After I moved to Rhode Island, I wasn’t able to find its equal so I decided to make my own version. While mine does not have sweet peppers, you won’t be disappointed by this recipe, I promise. You will however want to make it about once a week.
1 lb of penne pasta
1lb of Tuscan kale
3 to 4 yellow onions
1 1/2 cups milk (1% works just fine)
2 tablespoons of flour
1lb shredded cheddar
Start out by caramelizing the onions in olive oil and some salt. This takes awhile, usually an hour and a half and can be done ahead of time. Once the onions are done, in the same pan, cook the kale, mixing it thoroughly in with the onions. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
Put water on to boil for the pasta and cook the pasta according to its package instructions. This can be done while you’re preparing the cheese sauce. If the pasta is done before the sauce is, just leave it draining in the colander in your sink. You want to make sure as much of the water is drained as possible.
To make the cheese sauce, take one cup of the milk and add it to a medium sized saucepan. Turn the heat on medium-high until you start to see steam rising from the surface of the milk. Take the remaining half cup of milk, combine it with the flour and add it to the saucepan. Stir gently and consistently until the milk starts to thicken (should take about 3 minutes). Then add the cheese one handful at a time while throughly whisking it between additions. Once all of the cheese is added, sprinkle in garlic powder, pepper and ground mustard to taste.
In the pasta pot, add the cooked pasta back in and stir in the caramelized onions and kale. Mix until it’s combined. Pour half the cheese sauce over the pasta and veggies and stir to coat. This helps the sauce stick better. Then add the remaining bit of sauce. Enjoy!
This recipe works with a variety of add ins: mushrooms, ham, peas, whatever you want. I will say that the real star here is the cheddar cheese that I get from Trader Joes. The fact that it’s infused with added flavor makes this dish so much more well-rounded. So don’t skimp on your cheese choice.
Enjoy this perfect fall dish this weekend. Yum!
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