I found the original recipe from 2012 over at seriouseats.com, but it must be a good one as Mac ‘n Greens can still be found on the menu of his Red Rooster restaurants in New York City and London.
Their warning that this is quite an elaborate dish is correct; I had it on the table in 2 hours, including 25-30 minutes oven time. However, it is well worth it; full-on flavors and the braised greens have an exciting hint of coconut, soy sauce, and mustard that actually go very well with the cheese sauce and gives the dish an overall boost.
Although this Mac ‘n Cheese has loads of veggies (about 50/50 with the quantity of pasta), it still doesn’t make it the most healthy one. Perhaps Marcus’ upbringing in Sweden rubbed off by him liberally using bacon, cream, and/or cheese in his recipes… You can easily make it a vegetarian version though by skipping the bacon, as in the end, it wasn’t really noticeable.
Below you will find my – slightly healthier – version where I upped the quantities of veggies and the sauce to have 8 servings, made a lighter cheese sauce by increasing the milk to (lower fat) cream ratio, and used home-made whole-grain penne.
For the Greens
- 5 slices bacon (optional)
- 4 tbsp coconut milk
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1½ tsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, halved
- 200g / 7oz cavolo nero, stem removed and sliced in ribbons of approx. 1-1½ cm / ½” (about 3-4 cups)
- 1 head of bok choi, core removed and sliced in ribbons of approx. 1-1½ cm / ½” (about 3-4 cups)
For the Topping
- 50g / ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 50g / ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 10g / ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the Pasta
- 450g / 1 pound fresh or 400g / 14oz dried penne or macaroni
- 60g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 500ml / 2 cups cream (I used 20% fat content)
- 250ml / 1 cup milk (I used semi-skimmed milk)
- 125g / 4oz Cheddar, grated (I used Smoked Cheddar)
- 125g / 4oz Gruyère, grated
- 60g / 2oz Parmesan, freshly grated
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp dry mustard powder
- Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
For the Topping: Combine the panko, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a food processor and pulse until very fine. Set aside.
For the Greens: When using, cook the bacon in a large frying pan on medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserving the bacon fat, and drain the bacon on paper towels. Crumble the bacon, and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk and soy sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Take from the heat and stir in the grainy mustard and crumbled bacon (if using), and set aside.
Heat the olive oil (and remaining bacon grease if using) in the frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the halved garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until pale golden. Remove and discard the garlic.
Raise the heat to medium-high, and add the shredded cavolo nero / collard greens. Cook, frequently stirring until the starting to wilt and then add the coconut milk mixture, cover the pan, and cook the greens over low heat for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the greens are almost tender and the sauce has thickened.
Add the bok choi and cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes or until tender and set aside.
For the Pasta: Preheat the oven to 190℃/375℉ and grease a 33x23cm / 13×9″ oven dish.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain the pasta, run it under cold water and add the pasta and braised greens to the oven dish and mix well.
- On low heat, warm the cream and milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the shallots are golden.
Stir in the flour and garlic, and cook, constantly stirring, for a minute or 2 until the mixture is golden.
Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the warmed cream and milk and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a minute or two before the sauce thickens.
Add the cheeses to the sauce by the handful and stir until the cheese had melted before adding more and finally stir in the nutmeg and mustard powder.
Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and greens, combine well and season to taste with pepper and evenly sprinkle over the topping.
Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the crumbs on the top are getting deep brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve.