BAKED PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE
Preparation - Medium;
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
- 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)
FOR THE SAUCE:
- HEAT milk the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave and keep hot.
- MELT the butter in a saucepan over very low heat till liquified and just bubbling.
- REMOVE from heat making sure butter does not turn brown or burn.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- REMOVE from heat and keep warm until ready to use.
- PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees F. with baking rack 1/3 - 1/2 up from bottom.
- COOK the pasta in about 6 quarts of boiling, salted water (about ten minutes).
- RETURN the sauce to low heat and add the grated cheese, stirring until cheese is absorbed into the sauce.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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