Servings: 8Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 45 min
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground mustard
several grinds black pepper
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb pasta (we use elbows)
1 small head cauliflower (about 1 lb) washed and broken into small florets – about same size as pasta
1/2 lb ham, cubed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Bring large pot of salted water to boil.
While the water is heating, melt the butter in good size pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes to ensure that all flour is well coated with butter. Raise the heat to medium high and gradually whisk in the milk, making a smooth, lump-free sauce. Whisk occasionally as the mixture heats, and allow to cook until it bubbles and thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes. When thickened, turn off heat and add salt and spices. Add all but about 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. Let sit a minute to allow cheese to melt, then stir until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. (The sauce will be spread over a lot of pasta and veggies, so you want it to have a strong flavor.) Set aside.
Once your pot of water has come to a boil, add the pasta. Cook it for only half the time called for on the package – it should be firmer than al dente. When pasta is one minute away from being done, add cauliflower, stir and cook for additional minute. Drain very well. Dump the pasta and cauliflower back into the large pot. Add ham and the cheese sauce. Mix well, ensuring the sauce gets into all the nooks and crannies. Pour the mixture into the the prepared casserole dish. Top with reserved shredded cheese and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and raise heat to 400 degrees. Bake until it begins to lightly brown on top – another 15 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.
Submitted by: farmershae on May 25, 2011