CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Ham And Cheese Casserole

Ham and cheese is the perfect pairing. You might say the two are a match made in heaven. From a ham and cheese sandwich to a ham and cheese omelet to a ham and cheese pizza, this combination is a love affair that knows no bounds.

But let me pitch another entree featuring this deliciuous duo: ham and cheese casserole.

The following recipe, which I discovered recently, may well have you eschewing all other pairings of ham and cheese. The creaminess of this recipe put it over the top for me, but it also has two qualities that make it very appealing to those who are always busy and on the go: It’s easy to prepare and requires only 25 minutes of baking time.

I’ll guarantee you will never go back to your old mac ‘n’ cheese casserole recipe once you’ve tried this one.

Ham and Cheese Casserole
8 ounces rotini pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup milk
½ cup cream, divided
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ cups leftover diced ham
⅓ cup sour cream or ⅓ cup half and half
1½ cups grated sharp cheddar, divided
2 scallions, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly butter an 8-by-8-inch oven-safe dish.
Cook the rotini pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk constantly.
Stream in the milk, ¼ cup of the cream, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Lower the heat and cook while stirring occasionally until slightly thickened. It will take about 5 to 8 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cream sauce, sour cream (or half and half), 1 cup of the grated cheese, ham and the sliced scallions. Stir well to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining ½ cup of grated cheese. Drizzle the remaining ¼ cup of heavy cream evenly over the mixture.
Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 5 minutes to slightly crisp up the cheese on top.
Let stand for 5 minutes before scooping and serving.

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