Prep 45 mins
Cook 1 hr
Living on a fixed income, I'm always looking for ways to stretch my tiny budget. It gets pretty tight at the end of the month around here! Since I'm cooking only for myself and DH, I thought I should start hitting the sales and putting some food in the freezer for that austere end of the month time. Since it's not included in my budget, there are no buttered breadcrumbs on top, but feel free to remove the foil and add them during the last 10 or 15 minutes of baking, I'm sure they would be great! This is a basic recipe that you can alter to your own liking or to whatever you have available. Change up the cheese combo to whatever your suits your taste: "aged" cheddar cheese mixed with fontina, monterey jack, sour cream, cream cheese, or whatever you prefer or have available. I have also made this with higher quality chopped hot dogs and got no complaints from DH. I have also substituted 1/2 cup non-dairy creamer mixed with 2-1/2 cups of water for the milk, worked fine -just sayin'!
- 3⁄4 lb dry elbow macaroni
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons oil or 1 1⁄2 teaspoons butter
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 1⁄2-3⁄4 lb ham, diced small
- 1⁄4 lb butter
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese or 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
- In a large pot, cook macaroni in boiling water until almost (but not quite) al dente, about 3 minutes less than you would like it done if you were going to eat it right now.
- drain in colander and rinse well in cold water to stop the cooking process. set aside to drain in colander some more while you finish preparing the other items.
- over medium-low heat, melt 1-1/2 teaspoons butter or oil (any type) in same pot you just boiled the mac inches.
- add diced onion. cook and stir frequently until onions just start to become translucent.
- add diced ham and stir just till warmed. transfer onions and ham to a dish or paper plate and set aside.
- melt 4 oz butter over medium-low heat in same pot you just cooked onions inches when butter begins bubbling, stir constantly until it stops foaming, 2-4 minutes. (this is step 1 to preventing a grainy, flour taste in the sauce!).
- have your whisk at the ready! dump in the flour. whisk, whisk, whisk until all lumps are gone and butter/flour mixture turns golden, about 3-5 minutes. (the second step to preventing a grainy, raw flour tasting sauce!) do no allow it to turn brown! your cheesy sauce will taste burnt and gross if you let the roux get dark!
- dump the milk in all at once and whisk until there are no longer any lumps. add the nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne. increase heat slightly and using your whisk, stir briskly until mixture boils.keep stirring and let it boil for 1-2 minutes (step three to preventing that grainy, icky flour taste!).
- remove from burner and dump in the onion/ham mixture and the cheeses (or cheese and sour cream/cream cheese). stir to blend.
- let sit for 5 minutes to cool down a bit.
- stir in the macaroni to coat well.
- spoon into buttered pan(s) -- whatever type pan you prefer will work. i got a pack of (4) cheapie aluminum 7” pie pans at the dollar store (perfect size for two people!). i filled (3) for the freezer and still had a good-sized bowl left for hubby to eat tomorrow.
- cover with aluminum foil and put in freezer.
- to heat from frozen: preheat oven to 350f. bake for 40-45 minutes if your pan is small (like mine are!) if you froze the entire mixture in one casserole dish, bake for 1 to 1 - 1/2 hours. stir at the 45 minute mark, replace the foil and continue baking.