Macaroni Ham and Cheese is creamy and substantial. It's the perfect comfort food for any time of year, but especially on a chilly day. Add a salad and you have a super easy meal that suits the whole family.
The addition of chopped ham turns a Macaroni Cheese into a hearty main meal. This recipe is a slightly luxe version as it uses some evaporated milk. If you don't have any, you can use all ordinary milk. Just don't use condensed milk - it's sweet!
Versatile Cheese Sauce
This is another reason for getting to grips with making Cheese Sauce. If the idea of making it is daunting, see my Foolproof Cheese Sauce recipe and method. It's the same as this recipe but in more detail. Once you've mastered that the possibilities are endless.
And if you have teenage children, Cheese Sauce is one of the basic recipes they should know before leaving home. You know that they'll never be short of a cheap, filling meal. (Another is One-Pot Mince and Pasta.)
Adding breadcrumbs to the topping
Well, it makes a change and adds a bit of crunch. It's also an ideal way to use up the end of a loaf of bread. Grate the lot - preferably in seconds in the processor - and freeze in a plastic bag to use when you need them.
You can buy breadcrumbs, but I can't bring myself to do it. Partly because I like to know what I'm eating and there must be some sort of preservative in bought ones? And partly because I always have bread. Anyway, if you have them, use them. And, really, I'm not judging you. I know what it's like to just buy it because it's easier. (It's even easier to just not bother to add them.)
BTW, the main difference between panko and standard breadcrumbs is that panko is made from bread without a crust - some special way of cooking it. So I'm not quite sure what the hype is, but as I haven't tried it, I can't really judge.
Spice it up?
If you like, you can add a little cayenne pepper to spice up your Macaroni Ham and Cheese - or maybe some chopped chillis? I shan't be doing this as Keith doesn't like hot food, but when he's away...
- Microplane spice mill for grating nutmeg – I use a lot of grated nutmeg, especially in Cheese Sauce and egg dishes, and it's one of the few spices that I bother to grate myself because it's easy and tastes much better fresh. I’ve used a small hand-held nutmeg grater for years, but I recently upgraded to a Microplane spice mill. What a difference it makes!
If you like this...
...Why don't you try:
Macaroni Ham and Cheese
- 200 g can evaporated milk
- 300 ml milk, full-cream is best
- 200 g extra mature Cheddar cheese
- 30 g fresh breadcrumbs
- 4 slices thick-cut ham, about 150g
- 50 g butter
- 50 g plain/all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon strong mustard (2.5ml)
- Grated nutmeg, about ¼ teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- 250 g macaroni
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 170°C fan/ gas mark 5/ 375°F
- Grease a 1.5 litre gratin dish
- Mix the milk and evaporated milk, to a total of 500ml. Heat in a microwave or saucepan to below boiling point
- Make the breadcrumbs if necessary
- Grate the cheese
- Put aside about 30g cheese for the topping and mix with the breadcrumbs
- Chop the ham into 1-2 cm squares
- Heat a large pan of water to cook the macaroni
For the Cheese Sauce:
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add about a quarter of the milk and stir well as it all starts to bubble. Once you have a solid mixture, add the next quarter of the milk and repeat until all the milk is used upIf it’s lumpy, use a stick blender or silisone whisk to smooth it out
- Add the mustard and nutmeg. Add 300g grated cheese, stirring, and taste as you add salt
- When the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, take off the heat. Put a lid on the pan to stop a skin forming.
For the Macaroni Ham and Cheese:
- Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water for two minutes less than the packet says. Drain well
- Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Add the ham and stir gently to avoid breaking it up
- Pour into the baking dish
- Sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumb mix over the top
- Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the top is browning and the sauce is beginning to bubble
- Leave to stand for about 20 minutes out of the oven before serving.