I have fallen in love with Jacques Pepin. His recipes, whether complicated or incredibly simple, like this one, always turn out perfect. I've tweaked it a little (forgive me, Jacques) to satisfy my teenager, who has requested this for her "birthday dinner." It's easy, inexpensive, and very satisfying. A real comfort food for us
- 1 3⁄4 cups penne (about 5 ounces)
- 1 1⁄2 cups diced ham (honey ham is delicious in this)
- 3⁄4 cup corn (about one ear, frozen works just fine)
- 1⁄2 cup frozen peas
- 1 1⁄2 cups zucchini, 1/2-inch cubes
- 3⁄4 cup grated cheese (we prefer Gruyere, but any you like will work)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- Boil about 2 quarts of water. Add penne and cook about 12 minutes until al dente (slightly firm). Drain and cool under cold water.
- Put cooked penne into a large bowl and stir in the ham, corn, peas, zucchini and cheese.
- Make the White Sauce:.
- Melt butter in saucepan, add the flour, and whisk it together until smooth.
- Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring a bit. The sauce should thicken.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Let it cool until lukewarm.
- Heat the broiler. Add the sauce to the penne and vegetables, and place in a shallow baking dish that can hold about 6 cups.
- Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
- Broil about 4 inches from the heat until the top is lightly browned (about 6 to 8 minutes).
- Serve immediately.
- NOTE: Pepin says you can make this ahead of time up to adding the Parmesan. It will keep, covered, at room temperature for a few hours, or up to a day in the fridge before finishing in the oven, so it's a great make-ahead dish. If refrigerated, just bring it back to room temp and bake at 425 for about 30 minutes.
- SECOND NOTE: Don't let this sit in the oven after it's finished or it will become gooey.