Kid Tested, Toddler Approved: Macaroni with Ham and Peas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I have a little dilemma in my house: Little Girl eats vegetables but doesn't like meat and Little Boy is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy with a distaste for the veggies. Often, they end up switching their plates. Ingenious? Yes. But I need to outsmart them...

The only thing they can agree on is pasta. If I add meats and veggies to pasta, some fresh garlic, and parmesan cheese then it's a win-win for both sides and they both gobble it all up. All of it. I conceived this pasta dish last night with some leftover ham roast from a recipe testing for the cookbook (yay! it came out awesome!) and used frozen peas. How easy is this dish? You don't even have to defrost the peas!

Macaroni with Ham and Peas
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup sweet onion (Maui or Vidalia), chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
splash of heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk*
1 cup cooked ham (leftover from roast or store-bought), cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup frozen petite peas
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, season the water with a good amount of of the kosher salt (about 2-3 Tbsp). Add the pasta, stir, and cook 11 minutes or according to package directions. Once done, drain pasta and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan. Add the onion and cook on medium heat about 7 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute until garlic is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper (a pinch of both or to taste). Add the flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring often. This is making a basic roux which is the base for your cream sauce. Add the cream and stir to combine, until the cream and flour have melted together and its uniform in consistency. Add the whole milk, a little at a time, stirring it in. Cook about 3 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and add the 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and mix in to combine until cheese melts. Add the drained pasta, ham, and frozen peas directly into the pan and mix to combine, coating the pasta and ham and peas with the sauce. The peas will defrost immediately from the heat of the sauce, and still retain their sweet flavor.

To serve, simply top with more grated parmesan. Serve hot.

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