Friday, September 10, 2010

Foodie Friday: Cheesy Pasta Plus! (Baked Mac & Cheese)

This is a dish I make a lot because it uses whatever I have on hand (besides not measuring anything, using up what I've got is another theme in my recipes). You can use any kind of pasta, any kind of green vegetable, any meat or meat substitute (or no meat at all!), and any kind(s) of cheese!
  • 1lb ground beef or turkey (Or, if you're vegetarian, Morningstar Farms soy breakfast crumbles are really good in this dish. I haven't tried the non-soy Quorn version in this dish, but I bet those would be pretty tasty, too.)
  • 1 large bunch of kale (or chard, spinach, a bunch of broccoli, 2 cups of peas)
  • 1 box of rotini (any smallish pasta will do—the multi-colored kind is fun!)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup warmed milk
  • At least 1c of shredded cheese (we usually use more like 2c)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta al dente and drain. Set aside.

In a skillet, brown the meat with the garlic powder (and crushed peppers). Wash, and chop or rip the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. (If you're using broccoli, cut the head into small florets.) Add the vegetable to the top of the skillet with the meat and saute until it's cooked down a bit and the color has changed to bright green. Pour the meat/vegetable mixture into the pot of drained pasta.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. When the oil is warmed, add the flour and whisk constantly for a couple of minutes, until it starts to have a nutty smell. Remove from the heat for about a minute, until all the bubbles go away (this will help keep your cheese sauce from being lumpy). Return to heat and whisk in the milk, a little at a time until it thickens. Set aside a handful or so of cheese for later. Begin to add the cheese to the pan a little at a time while whisking until it is all melted and the sauce has thickened. (This is where you may have to add more cheese or cook the liquid down for a while until it's the right consistency.) The sauce should stick to the sides of the saucepan a little bit while you are whisking, as pictured. Add a bit of pepper to the sauce.

Pour the cheese sauce over the meat/veggies/noodles and mix. Pour the whole lot into a greased 9x11 baking dish, smooth out so it's relatively flat on top, and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and golden brown on top.

Your whole meal in one bowl—yum!

Linked up at Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Friday Food at Momtrends, Food on Friday at Ann Kroeker, Wholesome Whole Foods at Health Food Lover, Recipe Swap at Prairie Story, and Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home, where my Zucchini Brownies are featured this week!


  1. What an excellent recipe - warming and comforting, good for you and easy to put together! Thanks for sharing it. By the way, I love the name of your blog - and you are so right about the right word not always being a real word!!

  2. This looks so good! I'm going to try variations of this -- gluten-free, in my case -- and you know I've never been a mac and cheese person, until now.

  3. Looks great! mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! ~Prairie Story

  4. Oh boy does this look good! What time is dinner? :)

  5. How yummy! Great twist on one of my favorites! Thanks for linking up last week for Friday Favorites!

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