How to make creamy spring pasta bake with ham

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In the spring when days get warmer but nights are still cool, my favorite meals are comforting and warm with light, fresh flavors. Salty ham and sweet tender peas are a classic seasonal combination. In the recipe below they come together with playful bow-tie pasta in a thick cheesy sauce. Think of this as a sophisticated take on mac n’ cheese.
The mild taste of Swiss provides a subtle cheese flavor that won’t overpower the delicacy of dill and the sweetness of the peas. Havarti would also work beautifully here. With just 15 minutes of prep, this dish packs all of the components of a satisfying meal—meat, veggies, pasta, and cheese—into one delicious casserole.
Creamy Spring Pasta Bake with Ham
15 minutes
30 minutes
1 hour, 5 minutes
1/2 cup (115 g) butter
1/2 cup (65 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (4 g) dry mustard
2 teaspoons (14 g) table salt
1/2 teaspoon (1 g) black pepper
1 teaspoon (1 g) dried dill
4 cups (480 ml) whole milk
1 lb. (450 g) block Swiss cheese or Havarti, grated
2/3 cup (65 g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 box (16 oz., 454g) bow-tied pasta, cooked and drained
3/4 lb. (340 g) cooked ham, cubed
1 1/2 cups (150 g) fresh or frozen baby peas
1 cup (30 g) salt-and-pepper croutons
2/3 cup (65 g) shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (14 g) butter, melted
Heat oven to 350°. In a Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour, salt, pepper, and dill and continue whisking and cooking 2 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling.
Slowly add milk and half-and-half. Stir, whisking constantly until thickened, 8-10 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat. Add cheese and stir until completely melted. Add remaining pasta ingredients and stir again.
Make the topping by pulsing croutons and Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add in melted butter and pulse again, briefly. Sprinkle over pasta.
Bake casserole for 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Pro Tip: Feel free to replace the peas—or add to them—with other spring vegetables. Asparagus, sugar snap peas, or diced carrots are all delicious options.
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