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Green Chili Mac and Cheese, Kale and Lettuce Salad

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
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Why we love it:

This is a Mac + Cheese casserole, though you can serve it soft and shave 25 minutes off the total time. The poblano gives a subtle heat and smokiness that is addictive, you might find yourself eating it cold for breakfast. You’ve been warned!


  • 16 ounces Elbow Pasta or noodle shape of your choice
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 Poblano Peppers
  • 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Flour all-purpose
  • 3 cups Whole Milk
  • 6 ounces Cheddar Cheese shredded
  • 6 ounces Mozzarella (shredded)
  • 4 ounces Feta Cheese (this recipe pairs well with Feta Stuffed Chicken)
  • 14 teaspoon Black Pepper freshly ground to taste
  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 head Romaine Lettuce
  • 14 bunch Lacinato Kale (optional, if you have some on hand from another recipe)

Cooking Instructions

  • 1. Before Starting

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta and cover it so it boils more quickly.

  • 2. Pasta

    Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the water, then when its boiling rapidly, add the pasta. Cook for the shortest amount of time listed on the box (they usually say 9-11 minutes or similar). If you purchased it in bulk, you’re aiming for al dente, a little less done then you’d eat it if serving immediately.
    When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.

  • 3. Peppers

    Slice the poblanos in half and use a paring knife to take out the seeds and membrane. Place them cut side down on a lined baking sheet and into the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, or until they’re softened and the skin in blacked in places. Remove from the oven and let them rest until your need them.

  • 4. Sauce

    While the pasta is cooking, start the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan with tall sides, melt the 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the mixture (called a roux) is evenly combined and bubbling a bit at the edges. It will smell fragrant and a little nutty.

    *Read this First*
    It’s not that this is hard, but do this part without distraction.

    While whisking the roux constantly, pour a slow, steady stream of milk into the hot pot. Be sure to whisk gently so the pot doesn’t rock off the burner or splash. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer while stirring often, at least every 30-45 seconds making sure to get into all of the corners of the pot.

    Once the sauce comes to a simmer, cook for about 5-6 minutes until the sauce is visibly thickened to coat the back of a spoon.
    Next, turn off the heat and stir in about ¾ of the total mozzarella and ¾ of the total cheddar in batches. Add a small handful and whisk until melted. Repeat with another handful, taking your time. Finally, add all of the feta and whisk to break it up and help it melt.
    Season with the salt and pepper.

    ** If you want to serve it faster or just prefer soft mac+cheese, you can serve it now! There’s no need to bake it. Omit the breadcrumbs.

  • 5. Casserole

    Get 9x13 baking dish nearby. Stir the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce. Slice the peppers into small dice or wide strips - up to you! We like to leave the charred skin on, but if you can see that it is visibly pulled away from the meat of the pepper, pluck it off with your fingertips first. Stir the peppers in to the pot.

    Pour the mixture into the casserole dish.

    In a small bowl, toss the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the casserole and place it into the oven. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes.

  • 6. Salad

    Wash and dry the romaine leaves. Wash and dry kale, if using. Tear or slice into pieces and toss together. Shake vinaigrette and drizzle over to taste (leftover from this week, or use your favorite one, or use a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil with a pinch of salt).

  • 7. Serving

    You may need to let it sit before serving. Slice into squares if its cooler, or use a big spoon if its still hot to divide among plates. Serve the salad alongside.

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  • Gluten Free:
    use GF pasta, cook according to instructions
  • Dairy Free:
    Make cashew cheese sauce! Here’s a recipe from Pinch of Yum. Bake for just 10 minutes or so to warm through. Or, you can buy vegan cheese sauces pre-made from quality grocery stores
  • Cow Dairy Free:
    Omit the cheddar and mozzarella. Use sheep or goat’s milk cheese, they are plentiful and many melt gorgeously. If you have a cheese counter, talk to someone there for help. Or look for Petit Basque, Pecorino Romano, Chevre, or try half as much buffalo mozzarella. Also, be sure to use a non-cow milk of your choice.
  • Paleo:
    This sauce and mix with the peppers would be lovely with butternut squash or cook spaghetti squash noodles. Also, tossed with steamed cauliflower and broccoli florets, sliced zucchini and layered into a casserole dish and baked.
  • Must Have Meat:
    cook and crumble some italian sausage into the mixture, or ground beef seasoned with cumin and chilli power drives home the southwest feel from the poblanos.
  • Pescatarian:
    A mac and cheese begs for expensive seafood like lobster chunks or crab. But also is good on the side of a southern style fish, consider serving with a blackened-spice rubbed catfish or sole filet or shrimp.
  • Poblanos:
    if you can’t find them, try hatch chilies (even from a can would be ok) or an italian frying pepper.
  • Not Spicy:
    poblanos have a gentle but noticeable kick to them, so substitute green bell pepper for the taste without any heat at all.
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