An inspired and elevated classic comfort food staple, this sweet potato mac and cheese with kale is packed with the sweet taste of sweet potato and the earthy, savory flavor of sage. Plus, the added veggies help make this a more balanced pasta dish!I think I’m having a pumpkin hangover. You know the feeling, right?! When you get really excited that fall is officially here and go on a pumpkin bender, eating, cooking, and pinning ALL THE THINGS PUMPKIN. And then you kinda crash and realize you’ve been neglecting all the other amazing produce of fall.Although seriously tempted to break out the pumpkin (I’ve still got some leftovers from last week’s Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl), I decided to be an equal opportunity fall produce enthusiast and make a dish featuring a different kind of orange – the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are not only deliciously sweet, they’re packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C.This mac and cheese still follows the traditional recipe of making a roux with flour and butter and creating a thick milk-based sauce but uses less milk and less cheese because the sweet potato adds volume and a whole lot of flavor. I’m not saying that less milk and less cheese is better for you. Sometimes I crave a traditional mac and cheese recipe and make it. Other times I crave pasta but maybe my body tells me it feels like something a little less heavy – this is the pasta dish for those nights. Did you know that October is National Pasta Month?! I LOVE pasta. Not just because I’m Italian and it’s in my DNA, but because it’s an awesome foundation to build a nourishing meal. Choose whole-wheat pasta, pile on some veggies and a protein, and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced, satiating meal, my friend. I also don’t hate that pasta won’t break the bank and that you can easily make large batches so that you have leftovers for the week.This dish is sweet and savory, which just the slightest kick from the cayenne pepper. I love the textural components too of the leafy kale contrasting the soft pasta and the crunchy sage breadcrumbs on top. I always know a recipe makeover is a success when Steve approves. This isn’t the quickest dish to make so maybe save this one for the weekend or you can roast the sweet potatoes and saute the kale ahead of time for a huge time-saver!Print
For the Mac and Cheese:
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, skins removed (about 2 cups mashed)
- 1 lb whole-wheat elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, roughly chopped (about 5 cups packed)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
For the Sage Breadcrumbs:
- 1 1/2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
For the mac and cheese:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places and place in oven to bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Preheat broiler and adjust oven rack toward the top of the oven.
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Drain pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add kale and toss to coat. Add 1/3 cup water and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove cover, reduce heat to low, stir kale and sauté until water has evaporated and kale is slightly wilted, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- In a dutch oven or large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add flour, cayenne pepper, and dry mustard, and whisk until it thickens, forming a roux, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue whisking until milk reaches a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and continue to whisk the milk until it begins to thicken (to the consistency of heavy cream), about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the sweet potato. Using an immersion blender, blend the sweet potato until smooth. Whisk in cheese. Stir in kale and elbow macaroni. Season with salt, to taste.
- Transfer pasta to a baking dish and top with sage breadcrumbs. Place baking dish under the broiler until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
For the Sage Breadcrumbs:
- In a medium bowl, mix breadcrumbs and sage. Add melted butter and toss to combine.
This recipe was retested, reshot and revamped to bring you the most delicious (and most beautiful) dish! The original post was published October 2014.