Basic Cheese Sauce: One Dish Ham and Pea Mac and Cheese Bake

My cooking strategy for the past few years has focussed on the 3 R’s – Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose. I try my best not to waste food that I’ve bought though fresh leafy herbs and vegetables are still my great failing.

A basic cheese sauce is the start of many a great meal, snack or veggie side dish. Start with a bechamel sauce. After that, you have a world of possibilities.

This cheese sauce started with 1 1/2 cups of pepper jack, 1 cup of old cheddar, a couple of slices of American cheese and a few tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese.

I took one of these containers and turned it into a main dish for 3 people.

Basic Cheese Sauce – makes 2-2 1/4 cups of cheese sauce

2 tbsp butter, salted or unsalted
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 – 2 cups milk
3 cups or more grated cheese
salt, if needed
ground black pepper or a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and as it starts to bubble a bit, stir in the flour until it’s all been blended into the butter. Whisk in the milk, about a half a cup at a time. Keep stirring and bring to a boil.

When the sauce has thickened sufficiently, in a few minutes, take the saucepan off the heat and stir in grated cheese a handful at a time. When all the cheese has melted, taste for seasoning. You may have to add a bit of salt but generally that’s not the case. Some ground black pepper and or nutmeg may also be added.

Cheese Sauce Variations:

Mexican cheese sauce (Monterey or pepper jack, white or yellow Cheddar cheeses and some salsa) – nacho dip or Nacho grande
Italian cheese sauce (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Provolone) – meat or veggie lasagna, over pasta
Swiss cheese sauce (Gruyere) – veggie dip ie cauliflower or broccoli, Philly cheese steak

One-Dish Ham and Pea Mac and Cheese Bake Pictorial Recipe

I used one of these containers (half of the cheese sauce made previously), 1 cup of thawed peas, 4 oz (~1 cup) diced cooked ham and another tbsp or so of Parmesan cheese over the top before it was put under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I cooked 1/2 a pound (200 gm) of elbow macaroni and the result was enough for 3 servings.

Combine and pour into a buttered baking dish.

Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on top and place under the broiler until browned and bubbly.

Add a salad, and a soup, and a cookie or two and you’re all set


6 thoughts on “Basic Cheese Sauce: One Dish Ham and Pea Mac and Cheese Bake

  1. I too, struggle with using up the herbs I buy. I saw recently that you can chop them up and put them into ice cube containers. Fill the containers with olive oil and freeze then put into zip lock bags. That way when you need to flavour a dish you can add the olive oil herbs. I’m going to try this. And I love the look of your pea mac – great comfort dish xx

    1. Thank you for the remark on the mac and cheese dish.

      I’ve had success freezing sliced green onions and using them in miso soup, quiches etc. As far as garnishes though, freezing herbs is a disappointment. Parsley and coriander leaves often go bad. As well as mint.

      On the whole, I end up using dried herbs a lot because of the perishability issue.

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