This dish is a twist on the usual mac and cheese....which my kids LOVE! Making this recipe took two trips to the grocery store though. I sent my husband to the grocery store one night to pick up a few things. He thought he grabbed provolone but instead grabbed a triangle of parmesan cheese. So I went back to the grocery store the day I planned on making this. While my kids love ham I was afraid that my daughter wouldn't like this because of the provolone cheese. She doesn't like the stuff. Once melted into the sauce and mixed in with the pasta though it was very mild (and I bought a mild provolone!). We all ended up enjoying this dish. This does require a little prep (making the sauce, cooking the pasta, etc.) and then some baking time. But we thought that it was definitely worth it! It's a warming, comfort-type dish perfect for the colder weather coming up!
Cheesy Baked Penne with Ham
recipe slightly adapted from Mandy's Recipe Box
4 cups 2% milk
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound penne pasta, cooked until tender yet still firm to the bite
1 ½ cups diced ham
1 cup diced provolone cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Prepare sauce: Heat milk in a medium saucepan until small bubbles form around the edges. In a larger saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir well. Continue to cook, stirring, until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly begin adding hot milk to the large saucepan, whisking constantly while adding. Sauce will start out lumpy and become smooth as milk is incorporated. Stir in freshly ground pepper. Turn heat up to medium and bring sauce to a simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the pasta.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a shallow 2 1/2-quart baking dish.(I used a 9x13 dish)
3. Assemble the dish: In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with the sauce. Stir in ham, provolone and ¾ cup of the grated Parmesan. Scrape the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
4. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce is bubbling around the edges and the center is hot (about 10 minutes more). Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.