Green mac and cheese with bacon crumb
- December 2023
- Serves 4 as a main (or 8 as a side)
- Hands-on time 25 min. Oven time 20 min
The cavolo nero leaves in this mac and cheese are whizzed smooth while the stems are quick pickled, then stirred through, to provide a brightness against the rich cheese sauce. Topped with salty bacon bits, this is a mighty upgrade of a classic dish!
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- 43g (25g saturated)
- 52g (7.4g sugars)
- 200g cavolo nero
- 60ml cider vinegar
- 40ml water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 5 rashers smoked streaky bacon
- 30g panko breadcrumbs
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 400g whole milk
- 50g parmesan, finely grated
- 200g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 200g dried macaroni
- Strip the cavolo nero leaves from their stems and roughly chop. Finely slice the stems and put in a small pan with the vinegar, water and sugar. Bring to the boil, then leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat the grill to high, then cook the bacon until completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper then, once cool enough to handle, finely chop. Stir through the breadcrumbs with lots of black pepper.
- Fill a small saucepan with boiling water from the kettle, add the chopped cavolo nero leaves and cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Fold in both cheeses, keeping a large handful aside for the topping. Stir until melted and completely combined, then stir in the mustard. Transfer to a blender with the cavolo nero leaves (give them a squeeze as you do so to remove any excess water) and whizz to a smooth, deep green sauce. Taste and season with salt and a splash of the stems’ pickling liquid.
- Heat the oven to 170°C fan/gas 5 and bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the macaroni in the water for 6-8 minutes (you want it to be al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven).
- Drain the pasta and stir in the green sauce, then strain the pickled stems and add two thirds of them to the pasta and sauce. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the bacon crumb, the remaining pickled stems and reserved cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Don’t waste it Separating the stems and pickling them ensures you get a smooth sauce with the leaves, without wasting the stems. The pickling liquid can be saved and used once more – pickled shallot rings are a good use for it.
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