This Easter my parents were away in FL with some of my other family members. I also had work during the day so sadly could not make it to Easter with David and Laura either. As such, I decide to take a more non-traditional take on Easter, with a long standing favorite of mine: Mac and cheese. With so many iterations, why not dabble with an Easter version? This one has smoked ham, smoked Gouda and peas. I used a spirally pasta (fusili) but elbows or shells would work well too.
You will need:
16 oz. fusili pasta
6 tbs butter, divided
1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tbs dried thyme
2 tbs flour
2 cups milk
3/4 lb shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 diced ham steaks
1 cup thawed frozen peas
2 cups panko bread crumbs
First I started by preheating the oven to 350. In a 3 quart saucepan I melted 4 tbs of butter over medium / medium high heat. Once melted I added in the onion, salt, pepper, ground mustard and thyme. Stirred it all together and sprinkled the flour on top. Let the flour cook for a few minutes. You want to cook out the floury taste from the roux, once it is foamy you can add your milk.
Once the milk is added stir continually until it is thickened. Stir in the Gouda and the cheddar. The Gouda took a bit of time to melt. (This is the point where I also threw the pasta into a pot of boiling water, and cooked until a minute shy of al dente.) I used reduced fat smoked Gouda and could not tell the difference. The sauce was very decadent. Once melted I added the ham and peas to the sauce.
I drained my pasta and put it back in the stock pot and stirred in the sauce until well mixed. I then poured it into a 4 quart casserole dish. I melted the remaining 2 tbs of butter in a bowl and mixed the breadcrumbs in it until combined, then topped the casserole with the buttered crumbs.
I baked this in the oven for 40 minutes and let rest for a few more before serving. The result was a smoky, savory and creamy Mac and cheese.
This recipe was even Easter bunny approved: