I had a ton of ham left over from Easter dinner at my house on Sunday. I also had the stomach flu yesterday. So today when my appetite returned, sort of, I wanted something really comforting to eat. This baked ham and macaroni and cheese recipe I created turned out great! It really hit the spot and my husband declared it "possibly the best macaroni and cheese I've ever eaten." He may have been just trying to get the kids to try it. Because heaven forbid you do something radical to the worlds most kid-friendly food, like add HAM to it, or put BREAD CRUMBS on top of it. Now it somehow needs talking-into. Pschaw. Ignore the kids... I swear it's delicious!
3 Cheese Baked Macaroni & Cheese With Ham
• 4 oz ham, chopped to bite-sized pieces
• 2 cups elbow macaroni
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/4 cup onion, diced fine
• 3 tablespoons flour
• 2 ¼ cups milk
• 6 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded medium cheddar cheese
• 2 ounces cream cheese
• 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of your favorite cheese, grated or cubed. I like parmesan, gouda, or havarti. Nearly anything will work, but cheeses with more flavor produce a better result.
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
• ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
• In a large sauce pan, cook macaroni for 7-8 minutes in salted, boiling water. Macaroni should be slightly al dente. Drain and set aside.
• Meanwhile, fry the ham for 3-4 minutes on medium heat until it begins to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 2 quart casserole dish or a 9x13 inch pan with foil. Spray with no-stick cooking spray. This will make clean-up a breeze. No baked-on cheese to scrape!
• Now it’s time to make the roux. In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and garlic powder and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the edges are beginning to brown. Remove from heat. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time until smooth (the onions will make it a little lumpy, but you don’t want lumps of flour). Return to the heat. Cook and stir the butter, onion and flour for 2 to 3 minutes until it thickens. Whisk in the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook an additional 2 minutes.
• Now add the cheeses. First the cream cheese, cut into chunks. Once that is mostly melted, add the cheddar, half at a time. Once that appears mostly melted, add your final cheese. Stir for another minute or two until the cheese is all melted and the sauce is smooth.
• Pour cheese sauce over macaroni. Stir in ham. Add salt and pepper. Stir well to incorporate.
• Once the whole thing is nicely mixed, pour the macaroni into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs until the surface is lightly covered. (Add more if needed).
• Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are hot and bubbly. Change heat to broil and cook an additional 2 minutes to brown the bread crumbs.