Worknight Dinner Recipe: Baked Rigatoni with Kale

by Maris Callahan on April 11, 2010

Baked Rigatoni with Kale

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

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.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie April 11, 2010 at 5:02 am

A georgous , healthy & appetizing pasta dish, Maris!!!
MMMMM,…the photo screams: EAT ME!!!


Petra April 11, 2010 at 5:09 am

Mmmmm, that looks really yummy and sounds healthy, too. I like your blog… good job! :)


Kalyn April 11, 2010 at 10:11 am

I can tell I’d love this. I like the changes you made too, sound delish.


tasteofbeirut April 11, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I tried kale once I toasted it and that was it! usually I use swiss chard! but your dish is very appealing and I am now wanting to give kale a second chance!


Joanne April 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Groan. This is comfort food to the extreme. I think I might be in love with it.


Dana April 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Yum. I wonder if I could sneak this by my “I won’t eat anything green but I love noodles” three year old. Worth a try!


mandy April 11, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Ohhhh, its like comfort food only better.


grace April 12, 2010 at 4:29 am

yeah, the very presence of the green, verdant kale not only makes this seem much more healthy, but the pop of color also makes it even more beautiful to behold! great dish, maris–i can see why you’re smitten. :)


kat April 12, 2010 at 10:21 am

love the addition of kale to make it a little healthier


Daryl April 12, 2010 at 10:32 am

I have become a pasta lover only recently. That looks exactly like something I would order in a restaurant.


5 Star Foodie April 12, 2010 at 11:11 am

Delicious rigatoni! I love the addition of goat cheese here!


Susan April 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

This is great! I have wanted to start eating kale for so long but I had no idea how, until now!


Regan April 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

This is an ideal Meatless Monday choice. Thanks for the great idea!


Caitlyn July 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

I made this last night for my boyfriend Maris- huge hit! Coulcnt find kale, unfortunately, so I had to use spinach. Everything was absolutely delicious!


Michele October 17, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I get bunches of Kale from the local farm, so I was desperate for a recipe that my kale-hating family would like. This was perfect. Thanks very much!


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