The Daily Meal’s Family Dinners: Kale Mac and Cheese

The Daily Meal’s Family Dinners: Kale Mac and Cheese

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Food brings everyone together, so join our family table and let’s #eattogether

Nathan Cyphert

Pull up a chair to our table and join us at our family dinners.

Breaking bread is a fulfilling experience well beyond the food that is enjoyed. Everyone at The Daily Meal can speak to this, which is why we’ve started our Family Dinners. Every week, we’re creating a way for all of us — from our readers to contributors and staff — to sit down and eat together by sharing weekly menus for you to cook or be inspired by.

Now, along with our Recipe of the Day Newsletter, we’ll be offering your menu ideas in the form of a three-course meal with tips and suggestions for each so it’s even easier for all of us to #eattogether. Check back to see what we’re serving at our family meal each week, and share what you’ve made with us through Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #eattogether. We’re excited to start sharing a meal with you once a week and we hope you are, too.

Zesty Kale 2 Ways Fontina Mac and Cheese

Baby it’s cold outside. OK, maybe it’s not that cold where you are, but who can say no to mac and cheese? That’s why we picked this mac and cheese recipe to feature for our main dish. The dish is comforting, oozy, and cheesy, and it also gives you a serving of heart-healthy kale. Make sure to follow cheese expert Laura Werlin’s tips for how to make the perfect mac and cheese.

Tomato, Cucumber, and Gorgonzola Salad

Because the mac and cheese is pretty filling itself, we chose this light gorgonzola salad to serve with it. It’s light and fresh, and bites of tomato and cucumber are the perfect balance to the rich mac and cheese. If you’re all cheesed-out from the main dish, feel free to skip the gorgonzola, but add a little balsamic vinegar into your dressing so that it has some flavor.

Berry Tart Recipe

If you have room for dessert, try this fresh berry tart (don’t worry, it’s light!). The crust is incredibly easy to put together, and the recipe is versatile enough to feature any of your favorite berries.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce

/>Nadiya's Kitchen />Over 100 recipes for Nadiya's favourite home-cooked dishes />Fuss-free inspiration for every day of the week />Traditional family classics with a twist

I am not averse to a massive bowl of mac and cheese for dinner, but it took a while to convince my family that sometimes this is OK: it doesn&rsquot always have to be rice and curry, or curry and rice. I don&rsquot mean the kind that comes out of a can and isn&rsquot sure if it is mac and cheese or baby custard mixed with overcooked pasta, and it doesn&rsquot have to be like a school dinner nightmare. Proper home-cooked mac and cheese is warm, hearty and delicious. This recipe, with mustard and kale to add interest, makes for a delicious one-pot meal.

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 25 minutes

Kid: Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.

Adult: Preheat oven to 350F.

Together: Thinly slice the greens.

Adult: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Cook Noodles

Adult: Add macaroni to boiling water and cook until al dente (a little chewy to the tooth). The pasta will keep cooking when we bake the mac n cheese in the oven!

Adult: Remove 1/4 cup of the water they cooked in before you drain the noodles. Place the cooking water into a bowl.

Adult: Drain the noodles and then add them to the bowl where you put the ¼ cup cooking liquid. This should keep them from sticking together until you are ready to add them to the final mac and cheese.

Together: Sauté greens + add cooked noodles

Together: Use the same pot you cooked your noodles to sauté the greens in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt for 2-3 minutes.

Kid: Add ¼ cup vegetable broth and cook another 2-3 minutes. Cook until slightly crisp.

Together: Add your cooked noodles and about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta liquid to the pot with the cooked greens.

Make white sauce, called béchamel

Adult: In a separate medium pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter on med/high heat and add ¼ cup flour, whisking until the mixture is like sand and a golden color.

Together: Add 3 cups of milk and 1 cup of vegetable broth.

Together: Stay on medium-high heat, continuously stirring with a whisk until thickened—approximately 10 minutes.

Kid: Add nutmeg and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

Kid: Turn off the heat add your grated cheeses and stir until melted.

Kid: Add your cooked vegetables and noodles to this pot and combine.

Adult: Place in an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs with a drizzle of olive oil and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

Yes, adding kale reminds me that mac and cheese can be &ldquohealthier&rdquo, can&rsquot it? Please say yes because that&rsquos what my conscience was telling me when I wanted to combine two of my top 25 foods all in one pot. Perhaps I&rsquom making up lost time as a kid when all I wanted to eat was mac and cheese, but instead I was fed a healthy diet of fresh fish, greens and rice. Oh, the &ldquotrauma&rdquo of eating fresh homemade food during childhood. Please, let me explain.

As a hungry kid growing up in a family with five younger siblings, we add suffered from the pain of growing up in two cultures. When I say &ldquopain&rdquo, it&rsquos from the perspective of a thirteen year old who was always hungry for American foods. Granted, we never were actually hungry because my parents had a whole backyard of garden fresh vegetables and herbs. Practically every meal we ate was homemade, 50% homegrown and always fresh.

Fresh and homegrown were bad words back then when my siblings and I were growing up. Why? Because all we wanted to eat were mac and cheese, hamburgers, french fries and pizza. As kids, not only was it torture to have to help out in the garden and pull weeds every weekend when we wanted to play Atari, but it was even more torture to have to eat all the greens that my parents grew.

Yuck. That&rsquos all we could think of every day for three meals a day. That amounted to 21 meals a week that had to be homemade and fresh. But we ate everything my parents put in front of us or else we&rsquod starve.

The pangs of hunger and cravings for cheesy mac and cheese were only satisfied once a month. And that was in the form of the boxes of Kraft mac and cheese. If it was on sale, then my Mother would treat us to three boxes. Now if you did the math, that would mean three boxes between six kids, which meant that after it was all cooked, each kid only had about 1.5 cups of mac and cheese.

Yes, we were all good at math, including the two year old twins who knew how to count out exactly their fair share of 1.5 cups of Kraft mac and cheese.

So, now as an adult, I often have cravings for this comfort dish and always remember how little I had it growing up and am now making up for all those childhood years of lost mac and cheese dinners. So what does all mean?

Well, what it all means is that I indulge in my quick stove top mac and cheese , my &ldquohealthier&rdquo broccoli mac and cheese and now this kale version that&rsquos super creamy, quick and satisfying.

Now that you know my childhood struggle, you can now join me and enjoy a big bowl of kale mac and cheese for the adult in me. And I&rsquoll enjoy a few bowls of this creamy goodness myself.

Tips for Making Healthy Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is super easy to make, but because the ingredients list is so simple there are a few things you should do to make this dish the best it can be.

Staying Organized For Stovetop Mac and Cheese

To be as efficient as possible, you&rsquoll want to have two pots going simultaneously. One for the pasta and kale and the other for the cheese sauce.

Start the pasta water first since bringing that to temp takes a long time. While it comes up to a boil, you&rsquoll have enough time to prepare the remaining ingredients.

Then while the pasta is cooking you&rsquoll be able to make the sauce.

Cook the Macaroni and Kale Together

Salt the Water:

Don&rsquot underestimate the importance of salting the pasta water. This adds some much-needed flavor to the macaroni and takes the entire meal to the next level.

How To Cook them Together:

To save an extra pot, you can cook the pasta and kale together. But since the pasta takes longer to cook than the kale, you&rsquoll have to add the kale after the pasta has been cooking for a few minutes.

Cook According to Package Instructions:

Since this is a stove top mac and cheese recipe, you&rsquoll want to cook the pasta completely.

Stove Top Mac and Cheese:

By contrast in a baked macaroni and cheese like my Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese or my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, you actually intentionally undercook the pasta because it will continue cooking in the oven.

Set A Timer:

Here, in this recipe though, it won&rsquot. So you want to set a timer for what the package recommends for al dente.

Add the Kale In Last 4 Minutes:

Four minutes before the timer goes off, stir in the kale. That will give both the pasta and the kale the perfect amount of time in the boiling water.

How To Make Healthy Mac and Cheese Sauce

Make A Roux

Cook some shallot in butter. I only use two tablespoons of butter to keep the calories in check.

I add in the shallot to boost the flavor of the cheese sauce. It works well with the kale.

Add in the flour and make a paste. You&rsquoll just want to make sure the flour is dissolved into the butter so that it will mix with the milk more easily.

Add the Milk

Next whisk in the milk, salt and pepper and bring it up to a simmer, while whisking.

Simmer to Thicken

Take care to get any roux out of the corners of the saucepan! Simmer until the sauce is thick and the shallots have had a couple minutes to soften completely.

Once the sauce has simmered, the sauce will be stabil, and you can remove it from the heat. It will be hot enough to melt the cheese when you whisk it in.

Combine the Cooked Pasta with the Cheese Sauce

Once the sauce is cooked and the cheese is added you can add it to the pot with the kale and pasta. Stir until it is coated and creamy.




Nutrition Facts
1 serving per container
Serving size 1 bowl (241g)
Amount per serving
Calories 470
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 27%
Saturated Fat 12g 60%
Trans Fat 0.5g
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 780mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 4g
Includes 0g Added Sugars 0%
Protein 17g 32%
Vitamin D 0mcg 0% Calcium 440mg 35%
Iron 0.5mg 2% Potassium 280mg 6%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Cooking Directions

Microwave Oven Make a 1-inch slit in overwrap. Cook on high for 4 minutes. Let sit 1 minute. Serve.

Conventional Oven Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove overwrap. Cover tray with foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 10-15 more minutes. Let sit 1 minute. Serve.

Toaster Oven Remove overwrap and bowl. Place in an oven-safe dish. Follow conventional oven instructions.

Recipe Summary

  • 8 ounces uncooked cavatelli pasta or other small shell-shaped pasta
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces baby kale (about 5 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1/4 cup salt to boiling water. Drain set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet over medium. Add kale by handfuls, stirring to wilt in between additions. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place kale on a paper towel&ndashlined plate to drain. Wipe skillet clean.

Melt butter in skillet over medium. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is very lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and cream, whisking to combine. Add buttermilk, whisking constantly, until completely incorporated. Cook over medium, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth, thickened, and gently bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and gradually whisk in mild cheddar and 1 cup sharp cheddar until melted and smooth. Whisk in eggs fold in cooked pasta and drained kale. Season with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly with remaining sharp cheddar.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly brown and bubbling around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. If desired, broil 1 to 2 minutes to brown the top. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Mustard Kale Mac & Cheese Recipe by Nadiya Hussain

I am not averse to a massive bowl of mac and cheese for dinner, but it took a while to convince my family that sometimes this is OK: it doesn’t always have to be rice and curry, or curry and rice. I don’t mean the kind that comes out of a can and isn’t sure if it is mac and cheese or baby custard mixed with overcooked pasta – it doesn’t have to be like a school dinner nightmare. Proper home-cooked mac and cheese is warm, hearty and delicious. This recipe, with mustard and kale to add interest, makes for a delicious one-pot meal.


500g pasta
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp English mustard powder
3 tbsp plain flour
250ml whole milk
250ml single cream
250g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
a large handful of kale leaves, chopped
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C.
2. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the recommended time on the packet. Drain and add the oil, stirring it through. This will stop the pasta sticking together.
3. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat, then add the garlic and mustard powder and cook for 1 minute.
4. Stir in the flour, and cook for another minute, mixing all the time.
5. Add the milk and the cream, and whisk until the sauce is smooth and lump-free. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens.
6. Take the pan off the heat, add the grated Cheddar cheese and leave it to melt, stirring occasionally.
7. Now tip the pasta and kale into an ovenproof dish, and pour over the sauce. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.
8. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and a good grind of black pepper to serve.

Over 14 million people tuned in to see Nadiya win 2015’s Great British Bake Off, on which she captured the heart of the nation. A columnist for The Times and Essentials, Nadiya is also a regular reporter for The One Show. Born in Luton, she lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, Abdal, and is mum to three gorgeous children. Nadiya’s Kitchen is her first cookbook.

With chapters ranging from ‘Lazy Sunday Mornings’ to ‘Midnight Feasts’, ‘Snacks and Sharing’ to ‘Dessert for Dinner’, there’s a dish for any time of the day, for all of the family. Nadiya offers innovative twists on traditional classics and the perfect recipe for those staple meals and bakes, from fish finger butties to churros french toast.

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Set an oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until it is al dente, about 6 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 3/4 cups of the pasta water. Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the shiitake mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are lightly browned in spots and softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the kale, garlic and 1/2 cup of water, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Cook until the kale is wilted but still crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Carefully wipe out the saucepan (or give it a quick rinse if it is really dirty). Add the half-and-half and cayenne and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Whisk in the Cheddar and Gruyere until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Add the macaroni and reserved pasta water to the saucepan and stir to combine. (The mixture will look very loose, but the pasta will suck up a lot of the sauce as it bakes.) Gently fold in the reserved vegetables. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Pour into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Toss the bread crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and a large pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned and crispy, about 10 minutes.

More Kale Recipes

Looking for more recipes to make with kale? Check out some of these recipes, or browse the whole recipe index.

Kale, purple cabbage, carrot, and red bell pepper are tossed with a jalapeño lime vinaigrette for a healthy Mexican inspired Cilantro Lime Kale Slaw.

Slow Cooker Ham Soup with Potatoes and Kale is both easy to prepare and flavorful, thanks to the use of a slow cooker and the rich flavor that a leftover ham bone imparts.

In this Berry Mango Kale Smoothie, Wild Blueberries, Strawberries, Red Raspberries and Blackberries are combined with Mango, Fresh Kale, Chia Seeds, and Orange Juice for a refreshing smoothie.

In this Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Squash, Goat Cheese, and Pepitas kale is lightly massaged with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then, tossed with roasted delicata squash, roasted red onions, herbed goat cheese, and pepitas.

These &ldquoCheesy&rdquo Kale Chips are a great, healthy way to satisfy your cravings for something salty and cheesy. Nutritional yeast gives them a nutrient-rich cheesy flavor without any added dairy.

Rainbow Winter Quinoa Bowls with Maple Dijon Balsamic Dressing features lots of delicious winter produce and hearty quinoa a filling, satisfying meal.

This recipe for Rosemary Chicken Chowder with White Beans started came to fruition on one of those nights where I found myself starting into the pantry wondering what on earth I was going to make for dinner.

Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing is a fantastic vegetarian stuffing recipe loaded with tons of veggies and flavors.

What are your favorite ways to eat kale?

Love this recipe for Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon?
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Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese is the answer to your cheesy pasta dreams. A mixture of whole wheat pasta, mashed sweet potato, cheese and kale make this savory sweet potato pasta dish a real winner.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 cups), cooked and mashed
  • 6 cups whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 2 Cups chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or cheese of choice) + more for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Rub or spray the inside of a large casserole dish with olive oil
    or butter.
  3. To cook sweet potato, boil a pot of water and add sweet potato.
    Cook until tender, 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, you can microwave for 5-7 minutes, or until soft.
  4. Prepare pasta according to package directions (but keep al dente). While pasta is cooking, saute kale in olive oil with spices for 2-3
    minutes, or until slightly wilted.
  5. Drain cooked pasta and let cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Once cooled, add pasta, mashed sweet potatoes, spices, and kale
    to medium bowl and stir to combine.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cheese, and add
    to pasta and sweet potato mixture.
  8. Mix well and add to large casserole dish, reserving extra cheese
    to sprinkle on top.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese has melted and top
    begins to brown.


Don&rsquot overcook the pasta since it will get further cooked when baking