When I saw a recipe for baked rigatoni with kale on The Kitchen Sink Recipes, I was instantly smitten. It was love at first sight. The fact that the fancy words “rigatoni” and “kale” appear in this recipe didn’t trick me into thinking that it isn’t glorified macaroni and cheese.
It has everything that the most delicious macaroni and cheeses have: a velvet cheddar-and-goat cheese cream sauce that begins as a roux, fat, tube-shaped pasta cooked to perfection and even a green vegetable for guilt appeasement.
I healthy-fied this one a little bit, substituting whole wheat pasta for white, punching up the amount of kale by a cup or two and using reduced-fat cheeses and 2% milk for the sauce. Definitely a winner for a casual dinner party or one of those “cook on Sunday eat for three days” meals.
Baked Rigatoni with Kale
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound tube-shaped pasta, like rigatoni
2 bunches (or about 1 pound) kale (or other hearty, leafy green, such as Swiss chard), thick stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 clove garlic, peeled
Salt & freshly-ground pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 to 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2- to 3-quart baking dish; set aside.
2. In a large pot of boiling water that has been well-salted, boil the pasta until it is just tender (not yet al dente). Add the kale to the pot with the pasta and cook for an additional two minutes, until the kale is bright green and the pasta is nearly al dente. Drain, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and then the milk. Add the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until the liquid has become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic clove. Add the cheddar and goat cheeses, whisking until the sauce is smooth.
4. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and kale and stir to thoroughly combine. Pour the pasta into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and freshly-ground pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pasta and kale are lightly browned.