I learned this recipe at my mother’s knee, quite literally. The teaching was entirely oral: as far as I am aware, she never wrote down the recipe. By the time I was 9 years old, I could successfully make mac and cheese casserole for the family dinner, and only have to bother my mother once or twice for instructional reminders (“How much milk is it again? Ok, thanks!”). I felt proud of the accomplishment, of being able to help my parents by taking on the responsibility for dinner, and of being able to make something that tasted “just like Mom’s”.
Over the years, I have tried many different variations on this casserole. I have made it with ham, ground beef, bacon, bratwurst (which is particularly delicious), no meat whatsoever, mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, habanero sauce… the alterations are as numerous as one could wish. My mother always made the casserole with cooked ham, so that is the version I cooked for this blog post. However, as with all good recipes, please feel free to modify it and make it your own. Home cooking should be an expression of creativity and love, not simply an exercise in rote memorization.
- 8 ounces pasta shapes of your choice (rotini, fusilli, shells, elbows, etc), cooked and drained
- 8 ounces cooked ham, chopped
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the cooked pasta and chopped ham in a 13” x 9” casserole dish.
In a medium cooking pot, sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat until clear.
Add the pepper and flour, and mix well.
Add the milk and cheese, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and sauce is thickened.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and ham, and mix well.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through.
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