Monday, January 23, 2012

Pasta, Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Casserole

This casserole is a winner! Around the Torbett house we love a good casserole, but not the calories that usually go along with it. With that said, I typically don't ever make casseroles. When I saw this recipe though, I knew I had to try it. Could the idea of a great, creamy casserole really be married with something healthy?
The answer is a big, generous YES! The only "downside" to this casserole is that it is a bit time consuming. However, if you chopped your broccoli, cauliflower and ham ahead of time it would really cut down on the prep time!
Pasta, Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Casserole
Baked Pasta and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy-Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
Recipe from Martha Stewart Living, February ’12  
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small head cauliflwer, cored and chopped (about 3 cups)
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 medium shallots, roughly chopped (or sub about 1/2-3/4 cup diced onion)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
4 cups skim milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I did just under that, between 1/8-1/4)
6 ounces Pecorino cheese, grated (about 2 cups- could sub fresh grated Parmesan)
1/2 pound medium multigrain pasta shells or bowties
1/4 pound sliced smoked ham, chopped (about 1 cups)
1 medium bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets (3-5 cups)
optional: 1/2 cup toasted whole-wheat panko (Japanese bread crumbs) for serving.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add cauliflower, garlic, shallots, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with flour; stir to coat well.
Gradually stir in milk; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; gently simmer until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Transfer all to a blender, and puree with nutmeg and half the pecorino until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked, about 5 minutes.  (Note:  If you like your broccoli pretty tender, add it to boiling pasta water for a couple of minutes before draining)  Drain well; return to pot.  Add ham, broccoli, and cauliflower sauce; toss to combine.  Transfer to an ovenproof 3 1/2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining pecorino, and bake until bubbling in center, about 30 minutes.  Heat broiler, and broil until golden brown on top, 1-2 minutes.  Divide among dishes, top with breadcrumbs (if using), and serve immediately.

I topped our casserole with regular Panko breadcrumbs, which I already had on hand. This casserole kept well in the fridge for several days as well. I'm thinking this would make a great freezer meal for a new mom or someone in need.
Happy Eating!
Sara :)

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