Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bacon, Kale and Blue Cheese Pasta Al Forno

Have you ever noticed that if you name a dish using another language, it sounds exotic? That's what this is, an Italian version of Mac and Cheese.

Al Forno simply means "in the oven" and so this is cooked pasta with cheese, kale, bacon and some 1/2 and 1/2 baked for 30 minutes to a delicious creaminess. Unlike old fashioned mac and cheese with a white sauce this version is quicker to prepare. Also to make it a one pot meal I added onions and kale in a vain attempt to create the impression that dish has some health benefits!
While I used kale and bacon, feel free to use another green. This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, who made a similar dish with raw radicchio and sauteed shitake mushrooms; I went with what I had in the refrigerator.

I'll be sending this over to Ruth of Once Upon A Feast - Every Kitchen Tells its Stories since she'll be hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night. Remember, if you want to participate, just send an email to ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com, with a photo and a copy of the link to your pasta post and mention Presto Pasta Nights. See you at the Roundup!

Bacon, Kale and Blue Cheese Pasta Al Forno

1 bunch curly kale, washed and torn in pieces
2 strips bacon, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 oz (3 tablespoons) blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup small pasta shells (no bigger than the tip of  your pinky finger)
2 cups cheddar or monterey jack
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or whole milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large pot, cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pot and cook onions in bacon fat until softened and translucent. Add kale to pot and turn heat down to medium, adding 2 tablespoons of water and covering pot to allow kale to steam. When done steaming, add bacon back into kale onion mixture and set aside. Meanwhile, cook pasta until almost al dente, but a little but hard on the inside when you bite into it. Heat 1/2 and 1/2 over low heat and set aside. Drain pasta and combine with cheese, warm milk, and kale mixture and toss to combine well. Season with salt and pepper (you'll need at least 2 teaspoons of salt since greens and pasta need salt). Spoon into 9 inch baking pan and bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and tops begin to brown.

Recipes currently inspiring me:

Fettuccine with Mushrooms, Lemon and Prosciutto at Sidewalk Shoes
Cosmic Shrimp Two Ways at the Crispy Cook
Melon, Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Skewers at Stacey Snacks



Faith said...

I love bleu cheese in mac and cheese, it adds so much flavor! Great use for kale too, since I'm always looking for new ways to use it!

Ruth Daniels said...

I must admit, I've never done the blue cheese in mac 'n cheese, but I'm willing to try this one. I happen to have some gorgeous Swiss Chard in the fridge and pancetta in the freezer.

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Night.

Joanne said...

Ha! So true. Adding the al forno to the name means that it can be served in high end restaurant.

I love the combination of ingredients in this! Blue cheese mac and cheese? Excellent.