1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
United States

503-475-6555

Recipes

Green Mac & Cheese

Sarah West

I was inspired to make this after one of our volunteers brought something similar to a market potluck last year. I love the way the greens cut through the heaviness of homemade mac & cheese, making it seem (almost) healthy. During their brief spring appearance, I like to use nettles because their rich, nutty flavor pairs perfectly with cheese. Any greens will do: spinach, mustards, sorrel, kale, green onion tops, or even broccoli florets all make nice substitutes.  (Want to come to market potlucks? Inquire about volunteer opportunities at the info booth).

Nettles, while uniquely delicious and more nutritious than all other greens combined, come with one catch--they sting! Once boiled or steamed, nettles are perfectly safe to touch, but take care when handling raw leaves. Read more about handling and cooking with nettles here.

Ingredients:

1/2 - 3/4 lb nettles, boiled and drained
1 lb penne pasta (or your favorite shape)
8 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons white flour
1/2 cup milk
2 cups half & half
1 pinch red pepper flakes to taste
1 pinch black pepper to taste
1 pinch ground nutmeg to taste
1 tablespoon dry sherry (optional)
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
8 oz fontina cheese, grated
16 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated, divided
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
smoked paprika


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside. Blend nettles and half & half in a food processor and set aside.

2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil and add penne pasta. Boil 8-10 minutes. Pasta should be al dente. Remove from heat, run under cold water, drain and set aside.

3. Place a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter. When butter melts, whisk in flour, stirring as flour cooks a minute or two. Add milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Then the sauce is smooth, add half & half, nettles mixture and continue to stir. Add red pepper, black pepper, nutmeg and sherry, stirring continuously. Add the three cheeses, reserving 1/2 C of sharp cheddar for later. Mix well until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce is consistently smooth. Remove from heat.

4. Add pasta to the pot of cheese sauce; stir until well mixed. Pour into prepared baking dish. Evenly sprinkle top of baking dish with reserved 1/2 C of sharp cheddar cheese. Cover with panko and dot with remaining butter. Sprinkle with smoked paprika.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbling and slightly brown on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

This recipe invites creativity: Reduce or increase the amount of greens to your own tastes. Substitute your favorite melty cheeses, or use just sharp cheddar. Skip the panko or use your own homemade bread crumbs. Change up the spices. Try stirring in lightly steamed, whole broccoli or cauliflower florets. Process raw leaves with the half & half instead of cooked for a brighter green (even nettles can be used raw, just be extra careful getting them into the blender).

Recipe adapted from the Hedgebrook Cookbook.