A great way to enjoy a comfort food classic and still get a healthy dose of leafy greens. This play on macaroni and cheese with Italian sausage and greens will feed the masses and it’s pretty easy to make!
If you like the idea of sausage and greens with pasta but want an even healthier, non-cheesy version (or do't have everything needed for the bechamel sauce), check out our Pasta with Sausage and Greens Recipe.
Note: If you are not a sausage fan, this dish also works well with chicken thighs.
1-2 pounds hot or sweet Italian sausage
1lb pasta of choice
4 cloves of garlic (2 for greens & 2 reserved for béchamel shown below)
Any of the 1 or combination of the following greens: 1 bunch of kale or 1 bunch dandelion greens or 1 bunch broccoli rabe or 1/4 lb baby kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated.
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups milk, full fat is ideal
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Few gratings fresh nutmeg (optional)
Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain pasta.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook sausage and greens: Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide saucepan (you will use this for the béchamel in a few minutes; you could also use your pasta pot, once it is drained) over medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. We suggest cutting the sausage casing and removing the meat, but you can skip the step and just cut the sausage into ½ inch slices.
When sausage is mostly cooked, add chopped greens and sauté until tender (about 3-4 minutes) depending on type (baby kale cooks faster than regular etc). Remove with slotted spoon or spatula, leaving any fat behind.
Make the bechamel: Eyeball the drippings (pork sausage will leave some; chicken usually does not). Use one tablespoon less butter if it looks like there’s a tablespoon there. Any less, don’t worry about adjusting the butter.
Melt butter in the saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and stir it into the butter until smooth. Cook the mixture together for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour in a small drizzle of milk, whisking constantly into the butter-flour mixture until smooth. Continue to drizzle a very small amount at a time, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added a little over half of the milk, you’ll find that you have more of a thick sauce or batter, and you can start adding the milk in larger splashes, being sure to keep mixing.
Once all of the milk is added, add the salt, garlic, nutmeg and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a lower simmer and cook it, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Assemble and bake: Add the sausage and bechamel to the bowl with the pasta and greens. Stir in mozzarella and half of the grated parmesan or pecorino; stir until combined. Pour into a lasagna pan, deep 9×13-inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole dish and coat with remaining parmesan or pecorino. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges and craggy points are nicely bronzed. (Optional: before baking, add thinly sliced tomatoes on top with the parmesan. They bake down nicely and add a bit of moisture and acidity.)
Eat warm! Reheats nicely if needed.