Anyone that knows me well knows that I love cheese. I most definitely have at least one serving of cheese every day and I shamelessly — and now publicly — admit it. My adoration of cheese is so intense that I actually woke up yesterday morning dreaming about it. In between report-writing and observations, my cheesy dream (bada bing!) led to a few daydreams at work which ended up inspiring me to create a Blissful Basil mac ‘n cheese. To completely winterize and beautify the classic dish, I added Swiss chard, which is a green, leafy vegetable chock-full of vitamins (i.e. A, K, and C), and caramelized shallots. The result was one gloriously tasty and texture-rich macaroni and cheese that has earned a permanent place in my list of favorites. The combination of white cheddar and Asiago leads to a mildly sharp and super creamy macaroni, the chard adds color and heartiness, and the caramelized shallots add a crunchy burst of flavor.
White Cheddar and Asiago Mac ‘n Cheese with Chard and Caramelized Shallots (Serves 6-8)
Blissful Basil Recipe
8 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
sea salt and black pepper
1 bunch green chard
1 lb macaroni pasta
12-16 oz reduced fat white cheddar (depending on how cheesy you like it!)
4 oz Asiago cheese
2 tbsp butter
4 cups skim milk
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp hot sauce
Bread Crumb Topping:
1 cup bread
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch cayenne pepper
dash sea salt
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees (to use later). To make the caramelized shallots, heat butter in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallot and cover for 5 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for 6 more minutes or until shallots are deep brown, stirring often.
2. Remove the stems and inner ribs from the green chard so that you are left with big, leafy pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the chard for 1-2 minutes. Remove the chard from the pot with a slotted spoon and remove any excess water. Finely chop and set aside. Keep water boiling for macaroni.
3. Cook macaroni according to package instructions (minus salt) and until it is al dente. Set aside.
4. Grate white cheddar and asiago with a cheese grater. Set aside.
5. Combine bread crumbs, oregano, cayenne pepper, and salt in a bowl. Melt 2 tbsp butter in microwave, pour over bread crumb mixture, and stir to combine.
6. Heat 2 tbsp butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the 4 tbsp flour and hot sauce to skillet and stir constantly for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk (add sea salt now, if desired) and cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly, stirring constantly. Remove the mixture from heat and add the grated cheese, stirring until it has melted.
7. Add the macaroni to the cheese mixture and mix in the chopped chard. Transfer into baking dish ensuring that mixture is spread evenly.
8. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over macaroni.
9. Spread caramelized shallots evenly over bread crumbs.
10. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden.
11. Let sit 5-10 minutes, serve, and enjoy!