OK, so you can only serve ham sandwiches and bean soup so many times before you have mutiny on your hands. So what's a gal to do with all that leftover ham from Easter after the kids have taken some home?
Well, how about combining it with that brie that's lingering in the fridge from a party two weeks ago -- too ripe to serve raw, but great for cooking. And maybe use up those caramelized onions you intended for the flatbread that got burned and tossed out when you stepped away from the oven for a few minutes?
Put them all together with a bag of artisanal pasta that's been sitting in your pantry for a couple of months, and you've got a stellar mac 'n cheese.
The pasta -- chubby, twisted strands in an embrace -- was appropriately called "fidanzati" -- or "betrothed."
I couldn't resist.
After making a béchamel sauce, I added the cheese, then tossed the sauce with the ham, the onions and the rest of the ingredients. Keep that cheese sauce very loose -- about the consistency of a thin crepe batter, not a pancake batter, because the pasta always absorbs so much of the sauce after it cooks in the oven a bit. Otherwise, you could be left with a very dry mac 'n cheese.
I sprinkled the pasta with a mixture of bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and herbs, then baked it in a hot oven for about 10 minutes to crisp the top a bit.
Serve it to friends and family, who undoubtedly, will be grateful not to be eating another ham sandwich again.
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Ham and Brie Mac 'N Cheese
1 pound pasta, cooked
about 2 cups leftover cooked ham, cubed
1 onion, sliced and caramelized in 1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 cup chicken broth (optional - you could use more milk instead)
about 6 ounces good melting cheese, cut into chunks (I used brie since I had it leftover, but fontina or cheddar would work too and if you have more or less than 6 ounces, it won't matter much. If using brie, remove the rind first)
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 t. dry mustard
several gratings of nutmeg
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour, cooking over low heat for a minute or two. Add the milk slowly, whisking all the while to eliminate any lumps from the flour. Slowly add the chicken broth, and stir, then add the brie and the seasonings, and cook until the brie melts. Turn off the flame and add the parmesan cheese. If it seems to thick, add more milk or chicken broth.
Mix the pasta, the ham and the caramelized onion with the cheese sauce and the parsley. Spoon everything into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the crumb topping over all. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 T. butter, melted
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the bread crumbs and basil. Toss for a minute or two, then turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the pasta.