My kids aren’t picky eaters. I realize many parents don’t have it quite so easy, so when my kids eat a bowl of vegetable chili without any cajoling, bribing, or tears, I thank my lucky stars. However, just because they’ll eat their roasted lemon pepper Brussels sprouts when I put them on the table, doesn’t mean they are actually asking for another serving of veggies.
In fact, when questioned about their food preferences, my kids will almost always request macaroni & cheese and hot dogs. Despite my best efforts to cultivate a love of quinoa, kale, and green beans, it turns out they are just kids and kids like mac and cheese.
As the parent on duty here, it’s my job to make sure the kids practice violin, get those dirty clothes sorted into the correct color bags, and learn how to clear up the table after dinner. Every single day I annoy even myself with the constant reminders to please for the love of all that is holy put your shoes in the basket so we don’t have to spend 15 frantic minutes searching for them every time we need to leave the house. Did you wash your hands? Did you hang up your backpack? Did you brush your teeth?
So, if I have to be the bad guy that calls bedtime and turns out the light on the absolute most important sentence in the best chapter of the final book in the Harry Potter series, well then Macaroni and Cheese from time to time is the least I can do.
This Baked Pumpkin Kale Macaroni and Cheese is a meal the kids and I both feel good about. With all the pumpkin and kale I’ve manage to squeeze into this recipe, I feel safe saying it is a healthier macaroni and cheese. I didn’t, however, skimp on the cheese or cream because comfort food still needs to taste like comfort food, pumpkin and kale aside.
- 1 lb pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 oz Fontina cheese, shredded
- 1¾ cup pumpkin puree (or a 15oz can)
- 2 to 3 cups fresh kale, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
- ½ cup soft bread crumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.
- In a medium pan, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper. Add cream and milk, whisking constantly. Increase heat to medium and and stir until sauce begins to thicken and bubble.
- Add the pumpkin, cheese, and sage to the cream sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and stir until well coated. Stir in chopped kale.
- Transfer pasta mixture to a 2 quart baking dish or 6 ramekins.
- In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and oil. Sprinkle over pasta.
- Bake uncovered fro 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh sage.