Yesterday was one of those rainy, cold, and gloomy fall days. The kind that make you want to cuddle up in bed and never leave. For the first few minutes after my alarm went off I seriously considered it, and then I thought of something else, something just as warm and comforting...
... a classic, with a smokey, green twist...
... and a family trick...
...layered and mixed, then baked to oohey, gooey, cheesy perfection.
Yep, on a day like yesterday (and today too) only the best Mac-n-Cheese will do.
My Mom always made the best mac-n-cheese. The homemade, from scratch, bechamel sauce, heavenly kind. And then she went and made it better by mixing the noodles and cheese together, and then adding the bechamel sauce at the end. This somehow kept the stringy, gooey, awesome cheesy-ness intact, and I loved it! So that's where the base of this recipe comes from, from Mom, and from love... here goes!
The base: 1 lb parboiled noodles (of your choice), 2-3 cups shredded white or yellow cheddar, bechamel sauce (I subtract the onions, and I add a 1/4 tea. of freshly grated nutmeg), baked until its hot and bubbling, and awesome.
The above base recipe is great for kids, it's simple and easy, and enough to make everyone happy. I wanted to be more than happy. So I added these lovely ingredients:
- 1-2 bunches kale (2 if the bunches are small), centers removed, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled.
- 3 cheeses: 2 cups Sharp White Cheddar,1 cup Asiago, 1/2 cup Pecorino Ramano (but honestly, add as much cheese as you deem fit!)
- 1 1/2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
Once I had grated my cheeses, and parboiled my noodles I cooked the bacon, removed it from the pan and set it aside. Then I added my onions to the same pan (can't waste good bacon grease!) and sauteed them on medium-low until they caramelized, about 12-15 min, removed them from the pan and set them aside. Next I added a bit of olive oil to the same pan and sauteed the Kale over medium heat until cooked through. Then I browned the bread crumbs in the pan. Once everything was set aside, I set to making the bechamel sauce (remember, no onions and add 1/4 tea. freshly grated nutmeg). Now that I had all my add-on's, it was time to assemble. This got a little messy, and I probably could have done this part better, but I was too far along when I realized it, woops!
I buttered my baking dishes, one bigger for the loaded mac-n-cheese (9" x 9"), and one little one for the original version (super kid friendly). Next I added a layer of noodles, then a layer of cheese, then onions, then kale, and finally the bacon. Then more noodles and more cheese. This is where it got messy, mixing it all together and keeping it in the baking pan. I suppose you could have done this in a large bowl and then add it to the pan, but again, that did not occur to me, so I made a mess. And it got a little messier when I poured the bechamel sauce over the top and slowly worked it into the noodle mixture with a wooden spoon. (Yes, this could all be done in a large mixing bowl, but this was more fun). Once everything was evenly mixed I dusted the top with 1 cup of the bread crumbs for the big dish and 1/2 a cup for the small, added some more cheese for good measure and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees F, until everything was melted and bubbling (about 35 minutes).
The result was better than I could have hoped for, it was completely satisfying, and completely perfect for the dreary fall day.
With the Kids:
* Last time in Recipes: Six Homemade Halloween Treats