Baked Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas and some Pepperoni and Cheese Balls

On the weekend, I thawed an 8 oz package of cooked ham, diced it up, and intended to use it in a pot of soup, along with a ham bone. There was a generous amount of meat on the bone, which I removed and added to the soup, so I only used half (4 oz) of the ham I’d diced up. The rest, along with a cup of thawed green peas, went into a baked mac and cheese. I started with Alton Brown’s recipe … but I made a couple of changes as I didn’t have Panko crumbs. And instead of chopping up an onion to add to the bechamel/cheese sauce, I used the last of a container of fried onions purchased from an Asian grocery store.

My usual cheese sauce is quite thick and the baked mac and cheese doesn’t really need to baked … just warmed through. However, this version is much looser, and uses an egg to add creaminess, so the baking is essential. My substitution of regular bread crumbs was a bit disappointing in that it didn’t brown as much as I would have liked so I turned on the broiler. And then got distracted by prepping the romaine for a salad. Disaster almost struck. It didn’t burn but a few spots were quite dark. I tried to spoon them off and then just gave up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Baked Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas

Baked Macaroni and Cheese – makes 6 to 8 servings

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced (or 1/4 cup fried onions)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp paprika
1 large egg
12 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (8 oz only used)
1 tsp kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Topping:

3 tbsp butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a large (2 qt/2.5 L) casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

These are the fried onions, I used instead.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into the casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. (I chose not to do so and only use 8 oz of cheese.)

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes. (You may want to turn on the broiler for a minute or so if your breadcrumbs aren’t as dark as you’d like. Watch carefully though so you don’t burn the bread crumbs. ) Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

NOTE: use 1 tbsp melted butter combined with 1/2 cup regular fine bread crumbs. No cheddar on top … just 8 oz in the sauce

Ham and Pea Variation: Stir 4-8 oz diced ham and 1 cup peas (thawed if frozen) into pasta/sauce mixture before pouring into casserole dish.

Sometimes you thaw pizza dough and then decide you really don’t WANT to make a pizza. These Pepperoni and Mozzarella Cheese Balls are a great appetizer idea for company or to treat your family on a week day.

Basic Bread/Pizza Dough – makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf or 2 12-14 inch diameter pizzas

3 – 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus more for kneading
1 1/4 cups warm tap water (test on the inside of your wrist)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 packet ( 2 1/4 tsp) granulated yeast
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, stir 1 tsp sugar into 1 1/4 cups warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let rise for 10 min until the mixture is frothy.

Put about 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the activated yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir with a fork until it holds together into a rough ball. Remove the ball of dough to a floured surface and, using the remaining flour, knead 8-10 min until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Compare the smoothness and texture to your earlobe if you don’t have a baby’s bottom handy. ๐Ÿ™‚ )Oil the large mixing bowl lightly and put the ball of kneaded dough in, rolling it around so that the ball is covered lightly with the oil. Cover with a piece of saran wrap and a large towel/cloth and put the bowl in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Prepare a baking sheet with sprinkled cornmeal. Shape the dough into 2 baguettes onto the baking sheet, cover again and let rise a second time until the baguettes have doubled in size. That should take 45 min to 1 hr depending on the warmth of the room.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush or sprinkle the tops of the baguettes with water and place a pan of boiling hot water on a lower shell in the oven. Place the tray with the breads so they’re in the middle of the oven. Bake at 400 F for 20 min. Remove and test for doneness by rapping the bottom (knocking) with your knuckle. It should sound hollow.

For Pizza: Divide dough into two pieces, roll out to fit pan. Brush edge of dough with olive oil, top and bake in a preheated 475 deg F oven for 20-25 min or until the crust is browned and toppings are cooked.

For Pepperoni and Cheese Balls: Divide your dough (1 1/2 lbs) into 16-18 portions, stretch each portion out into a 2 1/2 inch circle and stuff with a chunk or two of pepperoni and a mozzarella cube, pinch into a ball and place on a prepared baking sheet. Use either a greased baking sheet or line a regular baking sheet with parchment paper. and bake in a preheated oven at 375 deg F for 25-30 minutes.

Dip into your favourite pizza or spaghetti sauce


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11 thoughts on “Baked Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas and some Pepperoni and Cheese Balls

  1. Your mac and cheese looks outstanding, Marie. Excellent comfort food and I love the addition of the ham and peas. The sharp cheese would have given great bite too. Love the look of the pepperoni cheese balls! Excellent appetiser xx

    1. Thank you. The ham and peas is my standard addition to mac and cheese to make it a one pot meal when I’m too tired to cook a real protein. The cheese balls … playing in the kitchen is fun and delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I live in Europe so have never had macaroni and cheese, like most Europeans I guess, but I would love to taste it one day. It looks really comforting and delicious! As well as the cheese balls. Very original! (At least for me!)

    1. The ‘normal’ mac and cheese just has the pasta in a cheese sauce and is sometimes baked with more cheese on top. There’s a commercial boxed mac&cheese put out by Kraft that’s VERY popular. You can even make fancy mac and cheese with truffles or lobster. The cheese balls were just playing around with some dough from my freezer.

  3. I have to admit I usually find baked mac and cheese overdone with mushy noodles but your version doesn’t look mushy at all. The sharp cheddar makes a nice tangy sauce and the fried onions would add a nice crunch and sweetness. Those balls look delicious!

    1. I cooked the fried onions into the sauce unfortunately …so they got mushy. But, I think adding them to the Panko crumb topping, when I use them next time, would be a great idea.

      1. Peas are awesome! I always bust out a bag of frozen peas when I don’t have anything green left to chop and add. What a lovely idea to add some peas to pasta. I am going to try that this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the awesome idea!

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