Monday, January 16, 2012

Ham and Cheese Penne Bake

I am a huge macaroni and cheese fan. Who isn't right?! Well this is a great macaroni-&-cheese-like casserole with ham and a nice crunchy topping. I think I got the recipe from one of those seasonal Pampered Chef pamphlet cookbooks a while ago. I wrote it down and put it in my "recipes to try" binder and it has been waiting ever since to be made. Well I'm glad I made it. My family loved it and it was a great comfort food dinner. Oh, and if you'd like it to taste like a chicken cordon blue casserole, add a cup or 2 of diced chicken and use Swiss cheese for half of the mozzarella.

Ham and Cheese Penne Bake

3 cups penne pasta (or other pasta like macaroni or shell)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk (skim is fine)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cream
8 oz cubed ham
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (cheddar also works for a more mac&cheesey flavor)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
4 tablespoons butter

Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan or pot. Stir flour into butter whisking to create a smooth paste. Slowly stir in milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly. Add cream, paprika, salt, and pepper continuing to cook until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in ham, mozzarella, Parmesan, and penne pasta. Turn into a greased 9x13 baking dish. In a bowl combine cracker crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle buttery cracker mixture over the casserole. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until topping is browned.

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