Winter and pasta seem to go hand-in-hand; this Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Baked Penne recipe is a perfect example of winter-pasta-comfort food. And it’s easy. And it’s delicious.
I had a boatload of broccoli leftover from our New Year’s celebration crudité platter, as well as a bunch of cheese I’d sliced for crackers. Another leftover was a portion of a Virginia ham.
I combined them all in a very simple baked penne dish; you wouldn’t know it was leftovers at all. The preparation time is about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long it takes to cook the pasta of your choice. While the pasta cooked, I brought some half and half to a boil with a bay leaf and some crushed garlic. Once it came to a boil, I removed it from the heat to infuse the flavors for a few minutes.
The broccoli is cooked in the same water as the pasta in the last two minutes of cooking and they are both drained together and added to a large bowl. The bay leaf and garlic are removed from the half & half (or milk) and the infused liquid is poured into a separate bowl. Using that same pan, you melt some butter, add flour, dry mustard powder and a pinch of nutmeg for a roux. Once the roux has cooked for a couple of minutes, you add the still warm infused half and half and most of the cheese, whisking until it’s smooth.
The cheese sauce is then poured over the pasta and broccoli you have holding in a bowl, the ham is added and you stir it up. This mixture is poured into a shallow baking pan, covered with the remaining cheese and baked.
So simple. So delicious. Mr. Saucy gave it two-thumbs-up.
- 3 cups half and half (or milk)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 8 ounces Penne pasta
- 6 ounces broccoli florets
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard (I used Coleman's brand)
- a pinch of nutmeg
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 1½ cups grated cheese (I used a combination of yellow cheddar and Gruyere)
- 2 cups cooked, cubed ham (1/2" cubes)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Lightly grease a shallow baking pan and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add the half & half, bay leaf and garlic and bring to a boil.
- Once it has come to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions for al dente, adding the broccoli florets in the last two minutes of cooking time.
- Drain the pasta and broccoli and add to a large bowl.
- Remove the garlic and bay leaf from the half & half and pour the liquid into a separate bowl.
- Using the same saucepan, over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt.
- Add the flour, dry mustard and a pinch of nutmeg and whisk to combine.
- Cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the infused half & half and whisk to combine.
- Add one cup of the cheese and stir to combine, cooking for about 2 minutes, until the sauce is thickening and the cheese is melted.
- Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste.
- Pour the mixture over the cooked pasta and broccoli.
- Add the ham chunks and stir to combine.
- Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup cheese.
- Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and the cheese on top is melted.
- Serve immediately.