Saturday, December 18, 2010

Easy Pasta Casserole

My mom belongs to one of those book clubs, except hers is especially for arts, crafts, and homey kinds of things. A couple of years ago, she received some cookbooks and gave them to me. There were four total, all from Better Homes and Gardens. I'm terribly fond of them, as they have some really classic ideas. One in particular has great things in between the covers: Timeless Recipes (previously published as Easy Everyday Cooking). One of the easier--and tastier--things? Ham, Spinach, and Mostaccioli Casserole.

It's really lovely, and filling on a cold night. The recipe appears on page 74 and reads thus:

8 ounces packaged dried mostaccioli, cut ziti, or elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 medium onions, cut into thin wedges, or 5 medium leeks, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups half-and-half, light cream, or milk
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Drain again.

In a large saucepan melt margarine or butter. Add onions or leeks and garlic. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour, thyme, and pepper. Add half-and-half, light cream, or milk and the chicken broth all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in pasta, ham, and spinach. Spoon mixture into a 3-quart casserole.

Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir gently before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Well, something went awry when I was shopping and I ended up with chicken instead, which worked out pretty well (I used Hormel pre-cooked carved chicken, available in the lunch meat section). Also, I chose to use the ziti, regular unsalted butter, onions, and milk. The end result looks like this, although yours may be prettier.

As you can see, it's chock full of onions, so you may want to nix one of the three if you're not big on onions. But I think they really added something--substance, taste, and texture. It could have used a little more salt, as well; however, I think that making it with ham would have solved that problem.

I recommend following the recipe closely; I had to cut down on the time for the milk mixture, so it didn't thicken very much, and on the baking process, which again sacrificed thickness. But it was still pretty delicious!


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