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Ham and Brie Mac ‘N Cheese

  • April 6, 2016

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.
Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day. You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.
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.

crumb topping:
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.

Mac N’ Cheese with Butternut Squash

  • November 19, 2015

 There’s nothing like the intense flavor of summer vegetables – juicy, red tomatoes, crunchy, sweet Jersey corn and more … but when autumn comes, I’m in love all over again with squash. This fall, I came back from Europe to a plethora of ripe butternut squash in the garden. 

They were used for roasting, for soups and before they were all gone, for this pasta dish that I saw on my friend Stacey’s blog, originally from Cooking Light magazine.
If you’ve got vegetarians sharing the table at Thanksgiving, you could eliminate the bacon, and they’d never miss the turkey if you present this dish. The only problem is that the vegetarians will be fighting off the rest of the meat eaters who want a second helping of this mac n’ cheese.
Instead of the traditional elbow macaroni, I wanted something a little more festive, so I used torcinelli, from an artisanal pasta maker, found at a local Italian grocery store.
The vegetables and the bacon were roasted together. I used another pan to roast the onions and mushrooms that were cut in half. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, then mix everything together, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and pop it in the oven.
To see more of what I’m cooking up everyday, pop on over to Ciao Chow Linda’s Instagram feed:

Butternut Squash Mac N’Cheese
Serves 6-8

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
1 red onion, sliced 
3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 lb. mushrooms, halved
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut up into cubes
about six slices of bacon 
olive oil
kosher salt 
hot pepper flakes 
12 oz. pasta
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 T. butter
fresh sage leaves for garnish, optional


1 cup milk
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or your favorite cheese)
small bunch of sage leaves, chopped

Using 2 baking sheets, lay out the squash cubes, the brussels sprouts and the bacon. 
Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and kosher salt.
Roast in a 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bacon is crispy.
If the bacon is crispy before the vegetables are tender, remove from the pan first.

On another pan, lay out the red onion slices and the 3 large unpeeled garlic cloves and the halved mushrooms. Drizzle w/ some olive oil and place the in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. 

Crumble the bacon and set aside. 
Remove the garlic cloves to a cutting board and set aside.
Using an 8″ x 10″ casserole pan, lay out the sprouts and cooked squash.
Using a fork or potato masher, mash down on the squash cubes to create a puree or mash. I like to leave some texture so I didn’t make it a really smooth puree.

Add in the cooked onions, mushrooms and bacon pieces. Mix the vegetables together in the baking dish.
While your pasta is boiling, make the cheese sauce.

Smash the roasted garlic cloves with the back of a knife to remove the skins. Cut the garlic into pieces.

In a heavy saucepan, add the milk, roasted garlic cloves, cheese, butter, sage leaves and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and whisk until it is a nice even consistency, only a few minutes. It won’t be really thick, but don’t worry, once it’s in the casserole, the other ingredients will absorb the sauce and thicken it.

Season the sauce with a pinch of salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the casserole pan with the vegetables. Mix together.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and vegetables and mix together.
Melt the 2 T. butter and mix in the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Lower the oven temperature to 375F.

Place casserole back into the oven for 20 more minutes, until everything is blended and melted and bread crumbs are browned.
Garnish with sage leaves, if desired.