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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mac 'n Ham 'n Cheese Casserole - Grown-up Style

Ready for some grown-up macaroni and cheese with ham?  It is not your everyday Kraft and it takes a little work, but it is so worth it.

1 large sweet pepper (a red, yellow or green bell works fine)
1 pound of uncooked Penne pasta
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Palmito cheese in Costa Rica (In North America, you can probably find "Queso Oaxaca" with the Mexican cheeses in the dairy case.)
1 cup diced cooked ham
½ cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning salt
½ teaspoon course ground black pepper
¾ cup of milk

Preheat oven to 400°F
Place the whole sweet pepper on a cookie sheet and roast it in the oven for 15 minutes on each side. While the pepper is roasting grate the cheeses, mix them together in a bowl and set it aside. Dice the ham into small pieces. Cook the Penne pasta in salted boiling water about 10 minutes. It should still be firm since it will finish cooking when it bakes in the oven. Rinse the pasta in cold water. Mix the pasta with the cream cheese, mayonnaise, seasoning salt, pepper and ham until will blended and set it aside. The sweet pepper should be just about roasted by now, so take it out of oven and let it rest for 10 minutes so the skin loosens. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Rinse the pepper in cold water and the roasted skin should slip right off. Remove the seeds and stem and coarse chop the pepper. Fold the roasted pepper into the pasta mixture.

Place a layer of the pasta mixture (about a third) in the bottom of a casserole dish and top it with a third of the mixed cheeses. Repeat with two more layers of pasta and cheeses. Pour the milk evenly over the top and bake the casserole at 350° for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and it starts to brown on top.

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