Stovetop Mac ‘n Cheese with Ham and Peas
and lemony kale salad
The pasta for this cheesy mac cooks in a smaller amount of liquid than most and isn't drained after cooking. The starchy pasta water transforms into a thick, creamy sauce that is made even more rich with the addition of your favorite cheese.
Smarts #1: Keep a close eye on the pasta the entire time it cooks and stir frequently to prevent sticking and prevent the liquids from bubbling over.
Smarts #2: Be sure to use a pasta that has a recommended cook time of 10 minutes. You need the right liquid-to-pasta ratio so that there is enough (but not too much) sauce left in the pan.
- Ham, thick deli-sliced - 4 oz , chopped
- Cheese, cheddar - 5 oz , grated
- Peas, frozen - 1 cup
- Butter - 2 Tbsp
- Flour, all-purpose - 2 tsp
- Garlic powder - 1/2 tsp
- Salt - 1/2 tsp
- Milk, any type - 1 1/2 cups
- Water - 2 1/2 cups
- Pasta, shells or macaroni - 8 oz (look for something with a recommended cook time of 10 minutes)
- Mustard, Dijon - 1 tsp
- Hot sauce (opt) - 1/2 tsp
- Lemon juice - 1 Tbsp
- Vinegar, red or white wine - 2 tsp
- Mustard, Dijon - 1 tsp
- Honey - 1/2 tsp
- Oil, olive - 3 Tbsp
- Cucumbers - 4 oz , chopped
- Baby kale - 6 oz
Make vinaigrette - Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, mustard (portion for salad), and honey. Add olive oil while whisking. Season with some salt and pepper. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
Ham / Cheese - Prep as directed. Store separately. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
Cucumbers - Chop cucumbers. (Can be done 1 day ahead)
Peas - Defrost.
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Heat a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Add butter. When butter melts, whisk in flour, garlic powder, and salt until no dry spots remain.
Slowly pour in milk while whisking and increase heat to medium-high. Add in water. Bring to a simmer.
As soon as liquids are simmering, add in pasta. Wait until the water begins to simmer again and then set a timer to cook the pasta until tender, 10 minutes.
As the pasta cooks, stir in mustard (portion for mac 'n cheese) and hot sauce. Stay near the pasta and stir frequently to prevent sticking, especially towards the end of cooking when most of the liquids have cooked off. Reduce the heat a bit at a time so that the liquids are simmering vigorously but not boiling over.
Remove from heat and add the cheese in several additions, stirring gently after each addition (this will help the sauce to be creamy instead of grainy). (The sauce may still seem a bit thin, but will continue to thicken as it cools.)
Fold in ham and peas.
Just before serving, toss cucumbers and baby kale in vinaigrette until dressed to your liking.
Serve mac ‘n cheese with salad on the side. Enjoy!