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BAKED PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE

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Pasta al forno in bianco
Preparation - Medium;
Prep:30, Cook:50
Serves 4 - 6

FOR THE SAUCE
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk, heated
FOR THE PASTA
  • 1 cup grated cheese: Parmesan, Pecorino, Cheddar, BelPaese, Swiss
  • 7 oz cooked ham, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • l4 oz short pasta (penne, ditali, maccheroni, ziti, mostaccioli, etc)
OO 2 saucepans, pasta pot, oven-proof dish.

FOR THE SAUCE:
  1. HEAT milk the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave and keep hot.
  2. MELT the butter in a saucepan over very low heat till liquified and just bubbling.
  3. REMOVE from heat making sure butter does not turn brown or burn.
  4. ADD the 1 T of flour to the butter, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon till smooth - then slowly add the rest of the flour and stir till smooth.
  5. RETURN to medium heat and add 1/4 cup of milk at a time. When milk is absorbed by the butter-flour mixture, add a little more increasing quantities as you go along.
  6. ADD nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and continue stirring with the sauce at a slow bubble till sauce has the consistency of heavy cream.
  7. REMOVE from heat and keep warm until ready to use.
FOR THE PASTA:
  1. PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees F. with baking rack 1/3 - 1/2 up from bottom.
  2. COOK the pasta in about 6 quarts of boiling, salted water (about ten minutes).
  3. RETURN the sauce to low heat and add the grated cheese, stirring until cheese is absorbed into the sauce.
  4. DRAIN the pasta, pour out the pasta water, return the pasta to the pot. Pour in three-quarters of the sauce and mix it together very thoroughly. Add the chopped ham and mix again.
  5. GREASE a large ovenproof dish with half the butter (or a t of olive oil), pour in the pasta, distributing it evenly in the dish. Pour over the remaining sauce and dot the top with butter.
  6. BAKE in a preheated 400 oven for 20 minutes until bubbling and golden on top. Remove, rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

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