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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Creamy Noodle & Ham Bake

We had a lot of leftover ham from our Christmas dinner. I got tired of eating just plain leftover ham and potatoes. So we made a few things. We used the ham in our easy crust-less blender quiche a few times, I froze some, and then I saw a recipe for a ham and noodle casserole that caught my eye on Taste and Tell. I love when you can cook up some meat and save or freeze the leftovers for several versatile meals.  We usually have ham around Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. So there is a big need for good leftover ham recipes in my opinion. I'm glad to have discovered this one. Even if you don't have leftover ham, I like to buy a fat slice from the deli and dice it up.
The original recipe didn't have the kind of spice I was looking for - so I changed that up a bit and added some mushroom and garlic.  The results were delicious! A creamy garlic sauce surrounding pasta and savory ham, with just the right amount of flavor! Mmm!  The leftovers were great too!  Luckily there was enough left for my husband and I both to have some for lunch.  I love when that happens!  Peanut butter sandwiches and cheese quesadillas just don't cut it for me. And that's usually what my 4 year old requests 

Pasta is loved by my whole family - so it's one kind of meal I'm always inclined to make. My favorite dinners are the ones where there is no complaining and the kids eat their food up.  And that is just what happened with this meal. So it's a winner. 

It also came together quite quick - so I'm thinking that's another reason to hang on  to it.  .

Enjoy! And tell me about it. I'd love to hear what you think!


Creamy Noodle & Ham Bake


4 cups medium size shell pasta

4 tablespoons butter, divided in two

1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
4-8 ounces mushrooms, chopped 
8 ounces spinach, washed and chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon salt + more to taste if desired
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup ricotta or small-curd cottage cheese (see note)
2 - 2 ½ cups diced ham
Parmesan ¼ - ½ cup (for sprinkling over top), fresh grated


Note: If you’d prefer to use cottage cheese, buy the small curd and mash it with a fork until the texture if fine.  I prefer it over ricotta since it’s more affordable.

Bring a large pot of water to boil - and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  

While pasta is cooking add 2 tablespoons of butter to a large sauce pan and saute onion, garlic and mushrooms over medium heat until soft, stirring frequently, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the spinach at the end until wilted - 1 minute. Remove from pan and place in a bowl.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 size casserole.

In the same sauce pan you cooked the vegetables, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until combined.  Immediately add the milk and whisk together until smooth.  Stir in basil, thyme, salt and black pepper.  Bring to a soft simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the ricotta/cottage cheese, ham, and the vegetables.  Then stir in the pasta.  

Pour pasta mixture into the casserole dish, and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese - as much as you like (about ¼ - ½ cup is about right).  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Recipe Source:

Adapted from Taste and Tell’s Creamy Shells and Ham Casserole

PS I think this would also freeze well - like lasagna. I haven't tired it, but think it would work well. Just thaw and bake til bubbly.

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