Ham and Cheese Pasta
This ham and cheese pasta bake is an easy, delicious, comfort meal that’s fit for holiday get-togethers or Sunday dinner.
- 6 tablespoons Butter divided
- 6 tablespoons Flour
- 5 cups Whole Milk warmed through
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1½ teaspoon Salt plus 2 tablespoons for the pasta water
- ¼ teaspoon Nutmeg or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon Black or White Pepper or to taste
- 16 ounces Rotelle Pasta cooked to package directions for al dente
- 8 ounces Ham cut into ¼ inch slices then into ½ inch pieces
- 8 ounces Swiss Cheese shredded
Start a large pot of water over high heat.
Make the béchamel sauce
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted add the flour. Whisk the butter and flour until well combined and smooth. Cook the flour mixture for 2-3 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
Slowly add the milk to the saucepan while stirring. Add the bay leaf. Gently bring the sauce to a simmer. It will take about 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking and burning on the bottom.
Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg to the sauce, stir to combine well.
Cook the béchamel for about 5 minutes keeping it at a gentle simmer (lower the heat if needed) stir frequently.
The sauce will thicken as it simmers it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste the béchamel; add a little extra salt, if needed. Keep the sauce on low or warm until ready to use, stir occasionally.
Once you have the sauce under control, Salt the pasta water and drop the pasta. Cook to package directions for al dente.
Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and drain. Return the pasta to the pot and add the reserved pasta water, stir.
Build the ham and cheese pasta
Use a large baking dish or pan (about 9X12, make sure the dish or pan is ovenproof).
Add half of the pasta to the casserole dish. Add about half of the béchamel sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle half of the grated Swiss cheese and half the diced ham. Add the remaining pasta, the rest of the béchamel sauce and top the casserole with the remaining cheese and ham.
Reserve just a few tablespoons of the béchamel to top the pasta, for garnish if desired.
Bake the ham and cheese pasta for 30-35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and some of the ham pieces start to toast a little.
Choose a ham that is pretty strong and not sweet. We used a ham steak, then sliced it into ¼ inch slices then into ½ inch pieces. As long as they’re bite sized pieces they’ll work.
Warm the milk, in the microwave or on the stovetop. Use whole milk or reduced fat milk to make a béchamel.
Everything moves really fast when making the béchamel sauce. Plus all your attention needs be on the sauce; it’s very important to never leave milk on the heat unattended. Have everything ready to go for this recipe before starting to cook.
Calories: 576kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 971mg | Potassium: 436mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 745IU | Calcium: 413mg | Iron: 1.4mg