Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and HamSeptember 13, 2013
As our son worked his way through more and more types of solid foods, macaroni and cheese was inevitable. It is a pretty simple dish to prepare, after all. The big stumbling block for me was the whole notion of cheese coming in powder form. That's not really cheese. Not that I didn't eat a fair amount of the stuff from the iconic blue and yellow box growing up, but I wanted to make a more authentic mac-and-cheese for him....and work in some more wholesome elements.
There were a couple of things I wanted to make sure were incorporated in the final product, in addition to having a crunchy top and a gooey center.
One is ham. The boy loves ham. That thick cut, ham-off-the-bone, meaty kind of ham.
The other item I wanted to get in here is a vegetable. Even though he's a big fan of both broccoli and peas at this point, the combination of broccoli and cheddar is always a winner.
After some researching numerous recipes, I thought the Best Macaroni & Cheese Ever from Karen at Kitchen Treaty was the closest to what I wanted to make - and it really matched my style. The foundation is a classic white sauce, made with a roux and milk. Adding cheese turns this into a mornay sauce. This thickened, cheesy sauce will firm up even more in the oven. The breadcrumbs and cheese on the top will brown and crisp...making for a fantastic texture that can never be achieved by a boxed product alone.
This has turned out to be a really great base recipe that I've adapted and made on a week-by-week basis. It also easily filled up a regulation sized casserole dish, providing several days of tasty lunches and dinners for all in the house.
- 6 ounces Dry Pasta
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/4 cup Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- Dash Paprika
- 2 1/2 Cups Milk
- 3 Cups Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
- 2 Ounces Cooked Broccoli
- 3 Ounces Chopped Ham
- 2 Cups Breadcrumbs
- Cook and rinse the noodles (optionally butter or toss in olive oil). Spread them out in a 2 Quart baking dish
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Allow most of the bubbles to clear.
- Gradually add in the flour, incorporating with a wooden spoon, until all of the flour has been mixed in. Let this roux cook gently for about 3 minutes
- Mix in the mustard, a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning and the dash of paprika. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool for several minutes
- Pour in about half a cup of the milk and use a whisk to mix it in. You're doing this off the heat to prevent curdling and scorching
- Return the pan to medium heat and slowly whisk in the rest of the milk. If you rush this part, you'll have a lumpy sauce. Give the sauce about 10 minutes over a low simmer, continuing to gently stir, to thicken.
- Remove again from the heat and add 2 cups of the cheese in small handfuls, whisking to integrate
- Pour the cheese sauce over your noodles. Mix in the ham and broccoli. Top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs
- Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Give it a few minutes under the broiler to ensure a complete browning of the breadcrumbs.