This post is sponsored by Ronzoni®, however all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Elevate your mac and cheese game with this delicious Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese with Swiss Chard.
This year has proved itself to be a year for reinventing norms. Everything we thought we knew turned on its head, and that goes for food too. Our family has been having fun experimenting with new ingredients, styles of cuisine and also finding ways to make classic favorites.
Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese
Even when things started to calm down, my little kids can’t be trusted to socially distance, so I found myself yearning to prepare fun and interesting restaurant quality food… just without the restaurant. Family friendly, but with twists, literally.
I came across this recipe from my friends over at Ronzoni® and instantly knew it was a winner. True comfort food with a rich cheese sauce, rustic roasted garlic, zing of lemon and the last special ingredient: Swiss Chard. Yep, I hid those leafy greens right in the mac and cheese!
Would my children say no to mac and cheese just to avoid veggies? The answer is NO!
It is the ultimate elevated mac and cheese, which is why it made the list for my Thanksgiving Day feast and also replaced my previous award-winning mac and cheese recipe for pot lucks, meal trains and the such… when those activities resume.
Ronzoni brand makes the perfect classic pasta for mac and cheese and other favorite noodle dishes. They bring Italian heritage home to the states and provide over 50 shapes in their royal blue box, so be sure to add a few boxes to your next Walmart Online Pickup & Delivery order. Of course, the uses aren’t just limited to Italian food.
Mac n Cheese pairs best with short and hearty shapes, so I choose the most classic of shapes: elbows! It’s short, rainbow shape allows cheese sauce to stick in nooks and crannies.
After the pasta, cheese sauce is the next most important thing for any mac n cheese recipe. The best start with a roux made of butter, flour and whisked with a blend of dairy.
Next, shredded cheese is added along with seasonings. In this case, we used Gruyere, a fruity and nutty cheese. If you can’t find it, swap out for Gouda or even white cheddar. While the flavor profiles aren’t as robust, they will still make a darn good mac and cheese.
While we’ve covered the two most important aspects of any mac and cheese recipe, let’s review the other items that make this a standout dish for your family table:
- Roasted Garlic- While a whole head of garlic seems like a lot, when roasted it loses much of its potency. Instead it has a nutty and tempered garlic taste. It is easy enough to do at home, but you can commonly find pre-roasted garlic in the produce section of the grocery store.
- Swiss Chard- If you aren’t familiar, it is a large leafy green with beautiful red veins. If you can’t locate it, substitute with kale or baby spinach. Green chard is similar but lacks the signature red. ·
- Lemon– Don’t skip buying a fresh lemon for zest and juice, the flavor and zing it adds can’t be found in a bottle.
- Seasonings- Nutmeg, garlic powder, coarse salt and pepper do the trick!
- Bread crumbs- I love the texture difference in velvety cheese and pasta with a little crunch on top. Use seasoned, plain or even panko bread crumbs. Crushed croutons can also be a good swap.
- Scallions- Scallions are also optional. Albeit small, they offer a little color and crunch. Chives are another good pick.
While this awesome vegetarian dish can be standalone or even an entrée, here are a few more suggestions to customize and make it your own.
- Add 1-2 cups chopped or shredded chicken to the pasta before baking. Skip cooking by picking up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
- Top with crumbled bacon in addition to bread crumbs.
- For a little heat, add 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or chile powder to the roux.
- Top finished dish with crispy onion straws.
- Elevate your breadcrumbs by lightly toasting them.
- Add ½ -1 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, cut asparagus or cooked sliced mushrooms.
Make Ahead, Storage & Freezing
Mac and cheese is a wonderous dish. What makes it so perfect for holidays and potlucks is its amazing ability to be made ahead and reheated. Make up to 1 day in advance up to step #8 (pouring into a casserole dish) and then top with breadcrumbs and bake when you are ready to serve.
It can also be frozen at this step for up to 3 months. To cook, place frozen dish in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until the full dish has heated. If freezing, I highly recommend using a disposable aluminum pan.
Leftovers will be good for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave at 50% power to prevent the cheese sauce from separating, or in a saucepan with a tablespoon of milk. It can also be reheated in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
Roast Garlic Mac and Cheese
- 16 oz Ronzoni® Elbows , dry
- 1 head garlic , whole
- 2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 2 garlic cloves , minced and divided
- 1 bunch Swiss chard , woody stems removed and chopped*
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt , divided
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper , divided
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice**
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , divided
- ½ cup white onion , chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups 2% milk***
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese , shredded
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoon fresh scallions or chives , finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper & Flakey sea salt , for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Slice off top from head of garlic just enough to reveal the garlic cloves. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast garlic for 30 – 40 minutes or until garlic is soft and tender. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out garlic cloves from head of garlic and mash with a fork; set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente; drain reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. If you happen to forget to reserve the pasta water, whisk ½ teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot with ¼ cup water.
- Heat remaining olive oil in skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook Swiss Chard, half the fresh minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each coarse salt and pepper for 2 to 3 minutes or until wilted. Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice; set aside
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet set over medium heat.
- Cook onion, remaining fresh minced garlic for 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Sprinkle in flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.
- Slowly whisk in milk. Continue to whisk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened slightly. Stir in heavy cream, mashed roast garlic, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until flavors marry.
- Remove sauce from heat. Stir in Gruyere until melted.
- Toss in pasta, reserved pasta water and Swiss chard until well coated. Transfer to greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or any 3-quart casserole or baking dish).
- In a small bowl, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave. Toss with breadcrumbs and garlic powder; sprinkle over pasta.
- Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
- Sprinkle with scallions or chives, freshly cracked pepper and flakey sea salt before serving.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings.
**This is the equivalent of 1 standard lemon.
***Can be substituted with skim or whole milk, however if you use whole milk, reduce to 1/3 cup heavy cream.