This lightened version of the classic comfort food staple, mac n’ cheese, screams fall with the sweet taste of sweet potato and the earthy, savory flavor of sage. Plus, this Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N’ Cheese is packed with nutrient-powerhouse produce, making it the perfect well-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.
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 healthy meal. Choose 100% whole-wheat pasta, pile on some veggies and lean protein, and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced 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.Print
This lightened version of the classic comfort food staple, mac n’ cheese, screams fall with the sweet taste of sweet potato and the earthy, savory flavor of sage.
For the Mac N’ Cheese:
- 1 lb whole-wheat elbow macaroni
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 1/2 cups 1% milk
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, skins removed
- 2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Sage Breadcrumbs:
- 1 1/2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
- 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 1/2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
For the mac n’ 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.
- Boil 4 quarts of water and 1 tbsp salt in a large pot. Once water is boiling, add pasta and cook approx. 8 minutes (or according to instructions on package). Drain pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add kale and toss to coat. Add 1/3 cup water and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove cover, give the kale a stir, and sauté until water has evaporated and kale is slightly wilted. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
- In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add flour and cayenne pepper and whisk until it thickens, forming a roux. Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until milk reaches a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and continue to whisk the milk for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the sweet potato. Using an immersion blender, blend in the sweet potato until smooth consistency. Whisk in the cheese and dijon mustard. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Transfer pasta to a baking dish and top with sage breadcrumbs. Place baking dish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
For the Sage Breadcrumbs:
- In a medium bowl, mix breadcrumbs and sage. Add melted butter and toss to combine.
Not only is this mac n’ cheese rocking nutrient-packed kale and sweet potato, it’s also a lightened up version of this comfort food classic. With the addition of sweet potato puree, you only need about 1/2 the amount of cheese that’s usually called for. And I used 1% milk instead of half & half or whole milk and still got the richness and thick sauce I was jonesing for.
I love the flavor combos we’ve got happening here too. I added a touch of cayenne for a tiny hit of heat to balance out all the sweet. And the sage breadcrumbs adds that earthy, savory taste that pairs so well with sweet…and makes you think of Thanksgiving.
I seriously think this dish MUST make it on my Thanksgiving menu this year. It was that seasonally comforting.
For more cheese and pasta goodness or other Thanksgiving inspiration, check out some of these recipes below:
Looking for more pasta inspiration? Check out some of the other creative dishes by fellow Reduxers below!
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I’m a nutrition coach and yoga teacher helping people to learn to love food again. I love cooking, taking pictures of my food and traveling around the world. Follow my blog for delicious, seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more yoga and mindfulness into your life. And check out my e-book to learn how to improve your health through nutrition and yoga. Show me what deliciousness you make! Tag me @karalydonRD on Instagram.