Ham Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese takes the ultimate comfort food to full meal status. It is awesome in its basic state as a side dish, although I know many who will make a full meal of it. In this version, I’ve added ham as a protein, along with broccoli as the vegetable for a full meal version. Did I mention the crowning glory, bacon? This should satisfy those picky eaters who have to have cheese sauce on their broccoli. Prepare your ingredients in advance, and this casserole goes together quickly.
Ham Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
1/2 pound spiral or shell pasta (or your favorite shape)
1/2 cup finely-chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
5 ounces (2/3 cup) evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen broccoli florets, unthawed, cut into 1-inch chunks (see Notes)
2 cups (1-inch) ham chunks (see Notes)
1 cup (about 2 slices) soft artisan (French, sourdough, etc.) bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup large bacon bits
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the can)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
Spray a 9- by 13-inch glass casserole dish with vegetable oil.
Cook the pasta in salted water until not quite al dente. (It will cook more as it bakes.) Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large glass/ceramic casserole dish or Dutch oven.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Meanwhile, saute the sweet onion in the butter until softened and translucent. Whisk together the flour and dry mustard. Add flour mixture to the onions and cook for 2 minutes while stirring often. (This will get rid of the raw taste of the flour.)
While stirring, slowly add the chicken broth. When it begins to thicken, add the evaporated milk. Continue to cook while stirring until thickened. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and ground nutmeg. Heat until melted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Add the broccoli and ham chunks to the drained, cooked pasta in the casserole dish. Top with the cheese sauce and gently mix to evenly combine.
Combine the bread crumbs with the melted butter using a large fork. Sprinkle buttered crumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Top with the bacon bits and Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes or until top is nicely browned. Let rest for 5 minutes before sprinkling with fresh chopped parsley to serve. A nice green salad and a side of fruit will complete the meal.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
• The type of frozen broccoli you use will make a difference. If you use the cheaper variety that is chopped more finely, you will need to thaw and drain it before adding. Otherwise, the casserole will be too watery. Use large frozen florets and chop them yourself for best results.
• If you prefer fresh broccoli, by all means substitute it for the frozen. I use frozen because I always have some in my freezer.
• If you like yours extra cheesy, increase the Cheddar to 2 cups.
• Pre-cut ham chunks in vacuum packs are readily available in most grocery stores. However, I like to buy a single vacuum-packed ham steak and cut it up myself.
• Whole milk or heavy cream may be substituted for the evaporated milk. Skim or low-fat varieties will also work.
• Vegetable or ham broth may be substituted for the chicken broth.
• Panko bread crumbs may be substituted for the soft artisan bread crumbs.
• Nutmeg mellows the sauce, so please do use it.
• Consider adding chopped roasted red peppers to add a hint of sweetness and beautiful color to the dish.
BBQ Bacon Brisket in the Oven Recipe Photo ©2019 Peggy Filippone