Oh February, I will be so glad to see you go. How can one survive in a city that has seen record breaking cold for the month? From conversations with my husband and my coworkers, I know that even the cold-weather-lovers amongst us have started to feel bogged down by the sheer amount of cold weather alerts and blizzards we’ve had this month. Rationally, I know spring will be here soon. But irrationally, I think perhaps I should just give into the cold and lay down on a snowbank. Or start hibernating for the last few weeks of cold.
But since we’re all expected to continue working and paying our bills and feeding our families, maybe we just need to turn to cozier meals? I’ve made my (vegetarian) beefy macaroni and cheese more times than I can count recently. And we got a little sick of regular mac and cheese so I decided to make a less dairy heavy, more veggie heavy dish. This bake is vaguely inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s mushroom and marsala pasta bake. But Will and I both hate mushrooms so those were out. And I’m not drinking right now (being knocked up, and all) so I wasn’t about to open a bottle of wine just for one dish. So mostly I was just took pasta + mozzarella + baked until crispy and ran with it.
Curly kale works best for this because the stuff on top will crisp up nicely, much like kale chips. I asked Will to buy fresh mozzarella but instead he bought just the round stuff from the deli case, which actually worked a lot better than fresh would – what a smart husband!
Kale & Mozzarella Pasta Bake
2 cups of dried pasta – whichever shape you like, I used rotini
1 bunch of kale – curly works bets for this since the edges get very crispy in the oven!
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups of water and 1 tsp better than bouillon or 1/2 a bouillon cube)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 cup of diced mozzarella
1 cup of grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350.
Begin by cooking your pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta. Cook according to package directions, but drain when it’s still slightly before al dente – it will cook more in the oven. Leave your draining pasta in the colander and wipe out your pot to make the broth.
Remove the spines of your kale, and pull into bite sized pieces. Rinse well. Put 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and cook the kale until slightly wilted. DOn’t worry too much about draining the kale, this will help it wilt down faster!
Heat the remaining olive oil in the wiped out pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the onions have softened and are starting to caramelize. Add the flour and stir well. Then add the broth/water and bouillon and the spices. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Mix the drained pasta, wilted kale, mozzarella and 1/2 the parmesan in a baking dish. Pour the sauce over and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top is crispy.