If you are looking for some ooey, gooey comfort food this creamy ham and cheese macaroni bake is the ultimate easy meal for you. One of the things I enjoy about this mac and cheese is it’s loaded with baked ham pieces but it also has a few different types of cheeses inside.
I finished this recipe off with buttered cheese seasoned breadcrumbs for that extra crunchy texture on top. Don’t tuck in right away though when it comes out of the oven. If you give it some time to rest and come together like you would a lasagna or shepherd’s pie it will be easier to serve.
I’m sure there is no difference, but if you want to think of this as a macaroni and cheese with ham casserole then this is what it is. It’s something I’ve created with leftover baked ham and a recipe you should tuck away for when the time comes that you have ham you want to use up.
I’ve officially made a “Casa-Roll-Eh” and my fans know that I always joke about how many casseroles I say I’ve come across since moving to Canada.
Light or Low-Fat Mac And Cheese
Mac and Cheese in my opinion is meant to be a naughty meal that you enjoy once in a while. Although, if you want to enjoy it a bit more than once in a while than you can lighten the fat content by using just milk and low-fat cheeses or less cheese.
I find using a higher quality cheese with lots of flavour even if it does cost a bit more goes a long way for flavouring a meal. If you use a less quality cheese you will have to add more for flavour which means potentially more fat. As much as I’d like to have expensive cheeses around though it’s not always part of my grocery budget so use what you have on hand. You can also eliminate the topping or add less topping.
I’ve been making cheese sauces for years now as It’s another one of those recipes that I learned in our family kitchen when I was younger. Making this macaroni and cheese is pretty simple, starting with a roux and then carefully adding in your egg, spices , cheese and mixing until you have a cheesy sauce. I added the egg for a deep richness but if you want to cut that out it would work just as well and again cut down on some of the fat.
The history of sauces is quite fascinating although I have yet to try them all it’s certainly something I aim to put on my cooking bucket list. A roux, also known as a rue or panada is simply a flour and a fat and when combined becomes a thickening agent for sauces. You can also use it to thicken up soups, stews and gravies and really is so easy to make so don’t be afraid of the fancy names.
A classic cheese sauce uses a roux as would a béchamel sauce which is a white sauce I sometimes substitute or add to a lasagna instead of the classic red pasta sauce. There are also many Classic French sauces as well as espagnole sauce and veloute sauces that start with a roux and have graced family meals and restaurant menus across the nation.
What Makes The Macaroni and Cheese So Creamy?
Good question, I added a few good quality cheeses such as provolone, old cheddar and a Mexican Cheddar to this recipe mainly because I didn’t want this to be the classic macaroni and cheese. I wanted it to be a mac and cheese that your guests would say, “wow, that has some flavour”, or “that’s a different type of macaroni and cheese bake than I’m used to”.
I also added cream and milk which gives it that extra creamy texture. If you don’t fancy onions or you have a picky eater although I love the flavour it creates you can leave it out or cut it up very small so the kids or guests won’t notice it.
Better yet, I would love to hear your guests say, no more Kraft Dinner for me, this is my new go to, comfort food for a quick meal any day of the week. I also added a mix of cream and milk to this recipe to give it that extra creaminess that any mac and cheese should have. Make sure not to overcook your pasta al dente is the way to go, just cooked but not mushy otherwise you will have mushy mac and cheese.
Kids Love Macaroni and Cheese
This is also a meal that you can involve your kids with or teach your child to create memories so they too can go on to share this ham and cheese macaroni bake with their family. Teaching your children how to cook and showing them how you can take leftover ham from Easter, Christmas or any other meal to re-create something new rather than letting it waste is a smart lesson to teach.
If you have kids who are off to College or University who will be eating on a budget (most are) take some time out to teach them how to make this go-to recipe for the student menu plan. Showing your children the basics about creating a student budget to manage their money right up to creating a meal plans and how to grocery shop will help lessen the fear when moving out on their own. They can impress their friends when they show off their culinary skills in the dorm or student housing kitchen when it’s their turn to cook a fast dinner that hits the spot.
It really is that simple to make and similar to my easy cauliflower cheese bake popular back home in the UK with my family and which I made last year to share on the blog. Buying convenience foods in the box are what we are trying to get away from when cooking at home is not as hard as people think it is.
As long as you meal plan and you know all the ingredients you need, get them ready and set aside some time to make the meal, trust me you won’t want to be wasting your money on mac and cheese in the box when your family will rave about this signature dish at every meal.
Mac And Cheese Please!
When party planning on a budget this is also a frugal pot-luck meal that you can bring to a dinner party, work party, backyard barbeque party, baby shower, wedding shower, birthdays (the kids would love this). All you would need to do is warm the macaroni and cheese with ham in an oven for 15-20 minutes if it’s had time to cool just so you can heat it through.
There are so many reasons to make this recipe and no reasons not to unless you don’t like cheese but then why would you be reading this recipe in the first place.
Get ready for a cheesy recipe stuffed with ham and topped with fresh breadcrumbs that’s going to knock your apron off. Get all your ingredients ready on the counter for this recipe as it happens fast and you don’t want to be running around your kitchen measuring and doing prep work at the same time.
Ham and Cheese Macaroni Bake
- Yield: Lots … Should feed at least 6-8 hungry people
- Cook Time- 30-35 minutes
- Prep Time- 20 minutes
- 3 cups of cubed ham (bite size pieces)
- 1 egg in a bowl mixed
- 2 cups of 2% Milk
- 2 cups of Half and Half Cream
- 2 tablespoons of Dry Mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 450 g or 1lb elbow macaroni (or small pasta of your choice)
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 1 white onion minced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry chives
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 cup of grated Mexican Cheddar
- 1.5 cups of old cheddar
- 1 cup of grated provolone
- 4-5 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 cup of seasoned dry or homemade bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1/4 cup grated mozzarella (optional)
- Get all your ingredients out ready as this recipe will happen fast
- In a large post of salted boiling water add your elbow pasta and cook 5-7 minutes or until cooked al dente.
- Pour macaroni into your strainer and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. You don’t want the pasta to be hot when you mix it later on.
- Mince up your onion and set aside in a bowl
- Chop up your baked ham into bite size pieces and set aside in a bowl
- Mix your egg slightly and set aside in a bowl
- In a medium sauce pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter then add in your flour to make a roux, mix this continuously for about 4 minutes until combined with no lumps on medium heat. Do not let it burn
- Add in your cream slowly and mix to combine, then add in your milk, paprika, dry chives, dry mustard, nutmeg, stir and let simmer for about 7-10 minutes.
- In the bowl with your egg, temper the egg with a bit of the sauce and mix it fast, I keep adding a little bit of the hot sauce into the egg until the egg is up to temperature then I pour the entire egg mix into the pot and mix. If you add the egg straight into the pot it will just cook your egg and ruin the sauce, so temper it first.
- Add in all your cheeses one by one and mix to combine each cheese until the sauce is creamy
- Add salt and pepper to taste while you keep stirring
- The sauce is ready when it is thick and the taste is good for you.
- Add in your 3 cups of baked ham and mix
- Pour your pasta into the baking dish then slowly fold in the cheese and ham sauce
- You can also pour the pasta into your cheese sauce in the pot (whatever is easiest for you)
- Once it’s all combined in the baking dish it’s time to put a topping on it
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter then mix in your breadcrumbs and grated cheese. They will be wet and that is what you want. Spoon bits of the breadcrumbs around the top of the ham and cheese bake so it’s covered in most spots.
- Top this with any leftover cheese bits and the optional mozzarella for an extra gooey topping!
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes or until cooked through and the topping is browned.
Question: How do you like your mac and cheese?
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