Creamy Green Puna Penne with Three Cheeses

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, has been on my shelf for at least two years, waiting I guess for this incentive to take more than a brief dip.  Just to dive in and immerse myself in "The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution" as per the book's sub title.  So glad I did.

This well-researched, historical commentary on the food movement, which however predates the more recent explosion of internet food blogs, is filled with tongue-in-cheek, and out of cheek foodie gossip, fascinating background information on food production in America, biographies of the culinary leaders of our day and their impact on The Art of Eating, as M.F.K. Fisher called it.

What grows in our own neighborhoods, and turns up at the local market, the big move to regional cooking, well covered in this history of the food revolution, inspired my take on the prosaic Mac 'n Cheese, well known in its often insipid, pre-packaged, boxed incarnations.  I loved the idea of a green revolution in this common, yet favorite dish.  Locally grown kale from my natural foods grocery and the cream cheese I make from kefir.  Creamy green goodness, proving that food can taste as delicious as it is good for you.

Creamy Green Penne

Ingredients for 3-4 Servings

6 oz. kale, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
6 oz. penne or elbow macaroni (I used quinoa-corn)
1/2 cup soft cheese, such as Creme Fraiche, Mascarpone or kefir cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup milk or cream
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspooon salt
1 cup Monteray Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup stale bread, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil

Steam the kale for about 4 minutes, then remove to cool.  Blend until smooth and creamy with the soft cream cheese, about half the milk or cream, and garlic clove.  Set aside.

Cut up the bread, toss with olive oil and lightly toast on one side.  Set aside.

Bring salted water to a boil in large pot for the pasta.  Cook and drain the macaroni.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Butter a 2 quart casserole.

Make a bechamel sauce with the butter, flour, stock, remaining milk or cream and white wine, adding the jack and parmesan cheeses when thickened.  Stir in your green mixture until well incorporated.  Taste for salt, then add in the pasta, mixing to coat all and pour into prepared casserole.  Sprinkle with the croutons and bake for about 30 minutes.  Should be nice and bubbly.  And tastes nothing short of awesome.

Perfect served with something red, perhaps tomatoes sprinkled with shreds of basil or arugula (of course).  Maybe a beet salad with red onion, lemon vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts, which is what I did.  Viva La Revolution!


Swathi Iyer said...

Delicious creamy rich penne, I like beet salad though.

Joanne said...

I love how green this bechamel is...makes me want to jump into the bowl!

Rachel said...

That green kale pasta looks so luscious. I liked your comment about tongue-in-cheek and out of cheek humor. This was really quite a lively and wonderful read.

Foodjunkie said...

This looks really good! Glad we inspired you to finally read the book.

Foodycat said...

What a great use for kale! (not my favourite vegetable but so healthy!) this looks delicious.

Simona said...

Very nice! I am always on the lookout for kale recipe, given the steady supply provided from my garden. And hurrah for kefir cheese!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Too funny--I have had the book in my "to read" stack for a few years now too. It's good to have CTB to motivate us. ;-) I love how green and creamy the pasta looks. Yum!

Pierce said...

I am a big fan of pasta, have never tried kale in it and this sure looks delicious.