Pasta bakes are a great for week-night dinning. I have taken a classic macaroni & cheese recipe and amped it up a little by using smoked chicken, Gruyère cheese and kale, the green vegetable of the season. I have made this with cavolo nero and curly kale – both vegetables retain a semi-crunchy texture adding good contrast to the gooey sauce.
This is not a super cheesy sauce, an extra 200g or so of tasty cheese may be added if cheese is the main part of mac’n’cheese for you. Or sprinkle the pasta bake with fresh breadcrumbs & grated cheese before it is baked for a crusty topping. Add a side of salad or coleslaw for extra greens to round out the meal or serve with crusty bread to mop up any leftover sauce. Dollop on some hot chilli sauce and dinner is served.
Smoked Chicken, Portobello & Kale Macaroni Cheese
500 g fagiolini pasta (small macaroni shaped pasta)
50 g butter
50 g wholemeal flour
950 ml milk
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
200 g Gruyère cheese, grated
2 T olive oil
2 medium brown onions, diced
250 g Portobello Mushrooms, sliced
300 g smoked double chicken breast, diced
One bunch of kale
Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Place a large saucepan of salted water onto boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Place the butter, wholemeal flour and milk in another large saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking now and then, until butter has melted and sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt and plenty of cracked black pepper. Stir in grated cheese.
Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add onions and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add mushrooms, sauté until they release their juices. Prepare kale while the mushrooms cook – tear the leaves away from the centre ribs. Add kale to the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until wilted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chicken.
Drain the pasta and return to the large saucepan. Stir in the cheese sauce then fold in the vegetable & chicken mixture. Spoon mixture into a greased lasagne dish. Bake in preheated oven 180ºC until hot and bubbling (about 30 minutes). Serves 4-6.