Mac and cheese – but make it greens. I have had this vision for a while as we were harvesting bundles of chard from our garden and bringing home loads of beet greens from our produce boxes. Ever since quarantine started, I have been craving cheesy, comforting foods. I thought about making creamed chard, but over time this idea evolved to mac and cheese greens – simmered down greens in a mac and cheese sauce.
If you also have an abundance of greens in your fridge and are tired of eating Garlicky Chard with Tomatoes, allow me to introduce you to Mac and Cheese Greens. I would classify this dish as a “project”, meaning it will take a solid two hours to make. Perfect activity to keep your hands busy during those conference calls around lunch where you just have to listen to the updates, am I right? That’s what I did today, and it really paid off in the end.
Another note, this recipe makes a lot. I had a lot of greens taking up space in my fridge, as we harvested my chard from Bakersfield yesterday, have two bundles from our Santa Barbara garden on standby, and have two bundles of beet greens calling my name from our produce boxes. Greens overload, now turned into the perfect comfort lunch. Feel free to half this recipe or use it as an opportunity to meal prep!
Creamy, cheesy, full of greens, maybe healthy (probably not healthy). I ate this straight today, but I think it would be awesome served over roasted cauliflower for a nice veggie base, served on top of a roasted sweet potato, or even with some cooked elbow macaroni for the full mac and cheese experience. I love a customizable meal prep moment!
Recipe down below along with pictures!
Mac and Cheese Greens
- 1 pound ham, diced
- 2 pounds hearty greens, thoroughly washed and chopped
- Kale, Chard, Turnip Greens, Beet Greens will all work here!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chicken broth/stock
- Can sub with water
- 3 tbsp butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 8 oz block of cheddar cheese, shredded
- Any color or sharpness will work, use what you like!
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Salt to taste
- Chop ham into small cubes.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the olive oil has warmed through, add the ham and stir to combine. Allow the ham to brown in the oil, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes. Remove ham from oil and set aside.
- While your ham is browning, begin chopping the greens into 1-2 inch strips. Chop the stems into 1 inch pieces as well. Collect chopped greens in a large bowl.
- After the ham has been removed from the pan, add the chicken broth (or water) to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and into the stock.
- Add the greens in batches to the pot. Cover the pot to allow the greens to steam. The greens will begin to cook down as you prepare the next batch to be added, making more space in the pot. Add subsequent batches of greens, stir, and continue to cook down until all of the greens are in the pot.
- When all of the greens have been added, continue to cook over medium low heat, covered, for about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally during the cooking time. The greens will become very tender and will release a lot of liquid during this time.
- After the 30-45 minutes are up, remove the lid from the pot of greens, and allow them to simmer in their liquid over medium-low heat while you start the cheese sauce.
- For the cheese sauce, add the butter to a large sauce pan or saute pan, and heat over medium heat. Add the flour, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes to form a roux and cook the flour.
- After 5 minutes, slowly add the milk and stir vigorously. Use a whisk to work out any lumps of flour after adding the milk. Keeping the pan over medium heat, bring this mixture up to a boil while stirring constantly. You should notice that the mixture is thickening as it is heating up.
- Once the sauce base has reached a boil (only a few bubbles will appear), remove from heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time, and stir to incorporate each handful. Once each handful has been melted and incorporated into your sauce, add another handful. Repeat until all of the cheese has been worked into the sauce base. Add the paprika and salt to taste.
- Use a large colander to drain your greens from the cooking liquid. Add drained greens back to the large pot. Pour in the cheese sauce and ham, stir to combine.