Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Penne with Ham, Broccoli and White Cheddar

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Which is the case with this dish. This pasta dish came about as the result of the necessity to use up some leftover ham from Easter and the remains of a block of sharp white cheddar.

The working base for this recipe is inspired by my recipe for macaroni and cheese, (which also happened to be my very first post on this blog). In an attempt to try and make this not too over the top, I opted to use penne pasta made with 51% whole wheat. I think its hearty texture and flavor is a nice foil for a rich cheese sauce.

This is a great family-pleasing meal that can be on your table in under an hour. Probably 30 minutes if you are one of those that can really cook a "30 minute meal", which admittedly I cannot. I always allow myself an hour for their 30 minutes.

Penne with Ham, Broccoli and White Cheddar
~serves 4~

8 oz. whole wheat penne (or 51% wheat penne, which is what I used here)
2 c. bite-sized broccoli florets
1 c. chopped ham
8 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2 T. unsalted butter
1 small to medium shallot, minced (2-3 T.)
1 (12 oz.) can 2% lowfat evaporated milk
3/4 c. lowfat milk
2 t. cornstarch
Fresh ground pepper

1. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 t. salt and the penne. Cook according to package directions, adding the broccoli to the boiling pasta for the last 2 1/2 minutes of cooking. Remove 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and broccoli. Return to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, start the sauce base. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook stirring often until shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Add in the evaporated milk and 1/2 c. of the lowfat milk. Bring to a simmer.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 c. lowfat milk and cornstarch. 

4. When the sauce base comes to a full simmer, add in the milk/cornstarch mixture. Continue to simmer, stirring constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese until melted.

5. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli, add in the ham. Mix well, adding in some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce needs to be loosened a bit. Sauce will thicken upon standing. Season individual servings with pepper.


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