Creamy Kale and Pasta Bake


A comforting dish filled with creamy cheese-baked pasta will convince kids and adults to fall in love with this leafy green. Easy to make. Serve as a main meal or as a hearty side dish alongside a protein. Tip buy pre-chopped, pre-washed bagged kale and pre-shredded cheese to save prep time.

4 quarts water
¼ cup plus 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 (16-oz.) package chopped fresh kale
4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped yellow onion (from 1 onion)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (8-oz.) package preshredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
½ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces uncooked medium-size shell pasta, cooked according to package directions
½ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring 4 quarts water and ¼ cup of the salt to a boil in a Dutch oven over high. Add chopped kale; cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place milk in a 1-quart glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on HIGH 3 minutes.

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Whisk in hot milk. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a low boil, whisking often. Cook, whisking often, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in cheese, hot sauce, pepper, and remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Roughly chop kale. Fold kale and cooked pasta into cheese sauce. Pour into a greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.

Stir together panko and 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle over pasta mixture. Broil until panko is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Robby Melvin

Tenderize hardy greens like kale by blanching them in a large stockpot of boiling water. Cook the kale in salted water until tender, and then drain the kale and pat dry with paper towels.