I love a good honey-glazed, spiral sliced ham, but I rarely get to enjoy one, because they are just so darn big. But my parents received a whole ham as a gift, and as my mother defines eternity as two people and a ham, we served it for Thanksgiving. I managed to get away with most of the still-copious leftovers and went to work on recipe ideas (and enjoyed a number of ham-sandwich combinations). I enjoyed the leftovers so much, I ordered a ham for Easter.
I took the idea of a simple noodle casserole up a notch with a mustardy sauce and the depth of smoked cheddar cheese (or can use plain if you prefer). A little crunchy bite of pecan adds and extra dimension as well. This casserole is a great way to use leftovers from a holiday ham, but also makes an easy week night meal if you use cooked ham from the deli counter, sliced thick then diced. Serve this as a whole meal with a salad or as a side dish.
- 2 cups uncooked pasta, such as shells or elbows
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese (unsmoked if you prefer)
- 6 ounces cooked ham, finely diced
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but subtracting one minute from the recommended time. Drain and rinse well.
- While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 10 – 12 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of water and cook until the water is evaporated and the onions are a nice light bourbon color. Stir in the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the flour has disappeared into the onions and butter. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the grated cheese, then stir the rest in a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Stir in the yellow mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, ground mustard and nutmeg and stir until the everything is well combined.
- Add the diced ham and pecans and stir to coat in the sauce. Add the pasta and stir gently to coat each noodle in sauce. Season with more salt if needed. Scrape the pasta into a 3-quart casserole and smooth the top. Spread the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole.
- At this point, you can cool and cover the casserole and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, or bake it right away.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.
- Serve warm.
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