Thisham and cheese casseroleis ooey, gooey, cheesy, and full of flavor! The baked mac and cheese with ham includes gruyere and sharp cheddar cheeses, smoky leftover ham, and a buttery garlic breadcrumb topping!
Cuisine American, Southern
Keyword baked mac and cheese with ham, ham and cheese casserole, mac and cheese with ham
Prep Time 20 minutesminutes
Cook Time 30 minutesminutes
Total Time 50 minutesminutes
Servings 4- 6 people
Author Blair Lonergan
8ounces(½ lb.) short pasta, such as elbows, medium shells, “shellbows,” or cavatappi
Optional garnish: dash of paprika; chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for about 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente. Drain well.
Meanwhile, melt ¼ cup butter in a large Dutch oven over low heat. Whisk in the flour; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the room temperature milk. Increase the heat and cook for 2-4 more minutes, stirring constantly, until the white sauce bubbles, thickens, and becomes creamy. Remove the pot from the heat.
Stir in the gruyere, cheddar, 1 teaspoon salt, a dash of black pepper, and the nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and the diced ham to the pot with the sauce. Stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little bit more milk to thin to the desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
Transfer mixture to a greased 2-quart (about 8-inch square) baking dish.
In a small bowl, stir together the panko breadcrumbs, melted butter, and a dash of garlic powder. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the top of the dish.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot and garnish with a dash of paprika or chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
To cut down on the prep time, get the pasta water boiling while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (such as grating the cheese). Then, as the pasta cooks, you can whisk together the cheese sauce. This way the pasta isn't sitting around getting cold while you prepare the sauce, and everything comes together quickly at the end.
Use cheese that you grate by hand. Do not use pre-shredded cheddar cheese in a bag, because those packaged cheeses include a powdery coating with stabilizers that prevent the cheese from melting as smoothly into the sauce.
Salt the water before boiling your pasta. This is your chance to season the shells for a flavorful dish!
Boil the pasta for about 1-2 minutes shy of the recommended time for al dente. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven, and you don't want to end up with mushy, overdone pasta in your dish.
Remove the pot from the heat before adding the cheese (or keep the flame very low) so that the sauce stays creamy and smooth. When cheese gets too hot, it separates and gives the sauce a grainy texture.