This was one of my children’s favorite pasta recipes when they were growing up, and I made often throughout the years although it has been tweaked a little along the way. I often have pieces of leftover cheese that I put in a bag in my freezer to use in this pasta so the type of cheese I use often changes. You can use any flavorful melting cheese combination, such as Fontina, Gruyere, Asiago, and Gorgonzola to name just a few. I like the addition of a little blue cheese, but never use too much of it as it can be overpowering. A couple of years ago I started to add either cauliflower or broccoli florets in the pasta and now usually include one of the two. If you have young children who do not like vegetables, try the cauliflower cut up into small pieces and I bet they will never know they are eating a vegetable!
This pasta is a perfect choice for a pot luck dinner offering, or to use on a buffet table as it can be doubled easily, prepared ahead and simply baked before serving. It also freezes well, and tastes great reheated the next day as leftovers as well.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 1/3 Cup All-purpose Flour
- 3 Cups Milk
- 8 Ounces Melting Cheese (See Note Above) Cut Into Small Dice
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 1/2 Cups Diced Ham Or Pork Loin
- 1/2 Head Of Cauliflower, Florets Cut Into Small Pieces
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- 1/2 Pound Dried Pasta (Short Pasta Like Penne Or Fusilli Work Best)
- 1 1/2 Cup Homemade Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt & Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan and once melted add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic and the flour and stir well until mixed, then cook an additional minute.
- Slowly add the milk, whisking it into the flour mixture until smooth.
- Add the cheese and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Continue to cook until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 6 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower to the pot and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, and drain.
- Return the pasta and cauliflower to the pot, and add the sauce, parsley, and ham, and stir well to combine.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Lightly greases a casserole dish with butter or oil and spoon the pasta into the prepared dish.
- In a frying pan, add the oil and breadcrumbs and cook until lightly brown and crisp.
- Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the cheese.
- Sprinkle the topping over the pasta and cover the casserole dish.
- Bake the pasta until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover and cook an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm.