This mac-and-cheese with ham casserole is one of my favorite meals to prepare in advance. Besides being super easy to make, it is delicious and doesn’t need a side. This is an easy family dinner under $10.
That said, I still like to have something on the side to add color to the plate. Even if you add a vegetable, you’ll still come in on the low side of your budget.
Regular or Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese
Before I discovered my gluten intolerance, I used regular elbow noodles. For a while, after I discovered my issue, I would make separate casseroles so everyone would be happy. Now I use gluten-free pasta to serve to everyone, and no one can tell the difference.
Make-Ahead Mac and Cheese
Whether you have a late meeting or you like to just like to prepare meals ahead of time, you can do that with this casserole. Set the oven to timed bake or pop it into the oven when you first get home.
Then go about your business for about 30 minutes while it gets bubbly hot. The beauty of southern cuisine is that it doesn’t have to keep you in the kitchen all day.
The Joy of Mac and Cheese
There are quite a few reasons so many people put this creamy dish at the top of their comfort food list. It’s an easy dish to prepare. It can be either the main entrée or a side to beef, pork, chicken, or fish. Above all, it’s a delicious, rich, creamy, and versatile southern food.
Mac and Cheese as a Main Dish
While there are times when I prepare mac and cheese as a side, more often than not, I treat it as the main dish. Adding a little bit of meat adds flavor, texture, and nutrition. Mix in some green or red vegetables, and you’ll have the color to make it pop on the plate.
The beauty of any casserole is that it is, by nature, a one-dish meal. Even my chicken-and-rice casserole can stand alone have a simple side salad as an accompaniment.
Boil the elbow macaroni according to the directions on the box.
While the elbow pasta is boiling, steam some broccoli. After it is done, chop it into small pieces.
Mix in some diced ham that you’ve diced or purchased prepackaged.
After you mix in the broccoli, stir well. You may want to mix in the jalapeños now or add later.
Next, pour the milk into the mixture. Then add shredded cheese, mix into the casserole, and stir well.
Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and then pour in the mac and cheese mixture.
If you want a lot of spice, top with the jalapeños.
Sprinkle the fried onions over the top and gently press into the top of the casserole.
Boxed or Homemade Mac and Cheese
Although you may use boxed mac and cheese, it’s just as easy to make it from scratch. All you need are a few fresh ingredients, and the made-from-scratch version will taste much better.
Additions to a Mac and Cheese Casserole
Wally and I both enjoy a variety of texture, so adding a bit of crunch to a creamy mac-and-cheese entrée is a no-brainer. Aldi started carrying gluten-free fried onion crisps (the kind we use on the traditional green bean casserole). Now that this option is available, I’m in “hog heaven.”
Another thing we enjoy is heat. Sometimes I add sliced jalapeños, while other times I simply sprinkle in a little ground cayenne.
If you’re looking for more comfort food meals, here’s one you’ll enjoy: Mock Swiss Steak Dinner.
For more great recipes, check out some of my favorite sites:
- 1 box elbow pasta
- 1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup diced ham
- 1 cup broccoli (or peas)
- 1 cup milk (regular or almond)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Jalapeños or cayenne (optional)
- French fried onions (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook the pasta according the directions on the package.
- While the pasta is cooking, steam and chop the broccoli.
- Mix the ham and broccoli into the pasta.
- Add the butter, milk, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Stir well.
- Pour the mixture into the greased casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar and mozzarella cheese over the top of the mixture.
- Put the sliced jalapenos on the top if you choose to add them.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the foil, add the fried onions (if you want them), and put back into the oven to allow the top to brown.