A highlight of my month was teaching a kids cooking class here at the house. My friend Michelle had been trying to track down a class for her culinary minded middle son with no luck. I jumped at the chance to spend a day with my favorite kids cooking together in the kitchen.
In the week leading up to our Sunday afternoon class my daughter would come home from school with reports on what they wanted to make. After some flip-flopping the final verdict was macaroni and cheese, “the real kind Mom, with the crust on top.” This recipe was created to satisfy their request and mine — fresh from the garden goodness and cheesy pasta decadence.
We started out in the garden. Kids always think it’s cool to eat right out of the garden, making for an easy sell on getting those greens onto their plate. I told them if we mixed the rainbow Swiss chard into the macaroni and cheese we wouldn’t have to serve a side of veggies. Sold.
We practiced our knife skills lined up along the island chopping the chard (sorry, no photos — I had to put the camera down for that experience). They took charge at the stove sautéing and stirring with the best of them. It was a great day for the kids and adults, with a tasty one-dish dinner as our reward. This satisfying dinner is officially kid-friendly – both in the kitchen and on the table. Enjoy.
Side note: We used gluten-free pasta from Garofalo (thanks for the tip, Laurie!) and gluten-free panko breadcrumbs making this dish totally gluten-free. No one even knew until I told them post meal gobbling.
Baked Pasta with Rainbow Swiss Chard
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon more
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and ribs
¼ large white onion, grated or minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of kosher salt
1 lb macaroni or rigatoni
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup half and half or whole milk
8 ounces mascarpone
1 ½ cup white cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Set the broiler
Butter a large baking dish, reserve.
Cook pasta in boiling salty water for 7 minutes and drain. Reserve some of the cooking water.
Remove the leaves from the ribs of the Swiss chard and slice into strips. Fine dice the ribs of the chard. You will be using all of the leaves and ½ cup of the diced ribs.
Place a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Next, add onions and the ribs from the Swiss chard and cook on medium until translucent (about 8 minutes). Then add the garlic clove and chard leaves. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the leaves are wilted, about 5 minutes. If things look a little dry in the pan add some of the pasta water and stir to combine. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
Remove the veggies from the pan to a plate. In the same pan add the butter and cook on low until melted. Next, add the half and half, mascarpone and cheddar cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon until melted and warm. Add the Swiss chard mixture, cooked pasta and about a half cup of pasta water. Taste for seasoning.
Pour the pasta mixture into the buttered baking dish. Mix the panko breadcrumbs with the olive oil and sprinkle over the top. Broil for five minutes and serve.