comscore An easy twist on hamburger skillet macs | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

An easy twist on hamburger skillet macs

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Quick, easy and delicious, this one-pan meal is perfect for weeknights when cleaning up is the last thing you want to do. It’s reminiscent of hamburger skillet macs, which gained popularity in the 1970s, thanks to Hamburger Helper, when beef prices were high and families wanted to stretch a pound of meat. This kale-packed version spices up that classic with herby sweet Italian sausage, fresh garlic, red-pepper flakes and hot sauce. Like the original, the starch from the pasta helps thicken the cooking liquid into a quick sauce that becomes creamy once the cheese is added. Serve with a crisp green salad and toasted bread.

Cheesy Stovetop Mac with Sausage and Kale


• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 1/2 white onion, diced

• 1 large bunch kale, leaves only, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt

• 3 large garlic cloves, minced

• 2 tablespoons tomato paste

• 1 pound loose sweet Italian sausage (see Tip)

• 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

• 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water

• 1 pound short pasta (such as macaroni, cavatappi or fusilli)

• 2 cups/8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar

• 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce, plus more to taste


Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pot or a very large, deep skillet over medium-high, then add the onion, kale and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale has cooked down and the onion is smaller in size, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the paste darkens slightly, 1 to 3 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until it loses its pink color, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the red-pepper flakes, sprinkle with salt and give everything a good stir. Add the chicken broth and pasta and stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid on the pan and cook until the pasta is soft but still has some bite to it, about 10 minutes. Be sure to check on the pasta and stir every now and again. (The sauce will have thickened from the starch in the pasta.)

Add the cheese and hot sauce and mix well. Add salt and additional hot sauce to taste before serving.

Total time: 30 minutes, serves 4-6.


If you can find only Italian sausage links, use them instead and squeeze the meat out of the casings.

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