Cheap Recipe: Ham and Swiss Casserole

13 Aug

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

This filling casserole is filled with pasta, protein and vegetables.

This filling casserole is filled with pasta, protein and vegetables.

This is another pseudo ripoff from Pillsbury I’ve altered a little over the years to eliminate steps and additional dirty dishes. I’ve made this casserole several times, mostly because Hubby is a big fan of both Swiss cheese and asparagus.

I’m not really a huge fan of either ingredient by itself, but I don’t want to someday read a divorce paper that cites “irreconcilable differences about holey cheese and stinky vegetables” so this is my compromise. 🙂 And I can tolerate them both in this casserole because there’s enough ham and pasta to fill out the flavors. Just the same though, I’d love to try a variation of this dish substituting Muenster cheese for the Swiss and trading in the asparagus for some canned mushrooms. Mmmm.

Begin by preparing 2 cups uncooked pasta (rotini, macaroni, bowtie–whatever is available) to desired doneness according to package. While pasta is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees

This is a great use for leftover holiday hams!

This is a great use for leftover holiday hams!

 and chop 3 green onions into small pieces. To eliminate extra pots and pans, I wait until pasta is cooked, drain, and transfer immediately into a glass 8″x8″ casserole dish. Add 1 drained can asparagus (much cheaper and quicker than using the frozen kind, albeit not as crunchy or pretty, but it doesn’t really matter what kind you use) and 1-1/2 cups cooked cubed ham.

Don't worry about heating canned vegetables or refrigerated meat in this stage.

Don't worry about heating canned vegetables or refrigerated meat in this stage.

Toss in casserole dish. Using the emptied pasta pot on the same hot burner, cook 2 tablespoons butter or margarine with the green onion pieces and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Cook about one minute before adding 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. The resulting mixture will almost immediately solidify into small chunks similar to scrambled eggs in color and consistency.

The flour will make short work of all that butter.

The flour will make short work of all that butter.

Measure 2 cups of milk and gradually add to the mixture, pausing every half cup or so to try and work out some of the chunks formed by the flour. This may take a couple of minutes before it looks ready. It’s okay to leave a few smaller bits in the sauce. Don’t strive for perfection or you’ll scorch the milk in your pursuit! While the remainder of the green onion and flour cook down, you can begin adding the Swiss cheese. My original recipe calls for shredded

Save money by chopping your own cheese.

Save money by chopping your own cheese. And please ignore my ridiculously ancient and hideous plastic cutting board underneath. Thank you.

Swiss, but I’ve never seen this in any store. I just buy a cheap block or pre-sliced Swiss and do my own knifework. It doesn’t have to be finely chopped anyway, because it’s going to melt down pretty quickly as you add it to the sauce mixture. Just cross-slice strips and start adding it a little at a time into the pot.

As the sauce begins to thicken, it will need to stirred more often to prevent sticking or scorching on the bottom of the pot. It’s a good idea not to let your heat exceed medium at any point (other than when boiling the pasta at the beginning).

 

Sauce will begin to thicken and bubble as the cheese melts.

Sauce will begin to thicken and bubble as the cheese melts.

Once the cheese has melted into a uniform sauce resembling sawmill gravy (some lumps are OK), remove from heat and spoon over the pasta mixture in casserole dish. Don’t worry about stirring sauce in; it will naturally filter downward during baking. Stirring it will probably just make a big pasta mess all over your counter, and who needs that?

Top the casserole mixture with an even coating of finely processed breadcrumbs♥ (see photo of canister if you don’t normally buy these).

♥Chef’s Note: If you don’t keep fine breadcrumbs on hand, you could probably crush up some stuffing mix just as easily and top the casserole with that. I just like to keep the crumbs around because they’re great as filler in ground beef dishes like meatloaf, hamburger patties and meatballs. They also coat fish and chicken nicely for a skillet-fry that’s not too greasy.

I keep a can of these finely processed breadcrumbs on hand for meatloafs, meatballs, etc.

Finely processed breadcrumbs make a really helpful pantry staple.

Pop the casserole dish uncovered into the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until breadcrumbs have slightly browned and sauce starts to bubble.

Allow to stand 5-10 minutes after removing from oven. Top should cut easily with a large spoon for serving.
The bread topping really adds texture to the smooth cheese filling. Mmmmm.

The bread topping really adds texture to the smooth cheese filling. Mmmmm.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Cheap Recipe: Ham and Swiss Casserole”

  1. redforkhippie August 13, 2009 at 11:35 PM #

    I can’t gag down canned asparagus in any context, but I do something very similar to this with linguine, fresh or frozen asparagus, Parmesan, and whipping cream. Good stuff. You can riff on Alfredo sauce indefinitely by changing up the cheese and throwing different vegetables into the mix.

  2. Gracie August 14, 2009 at 8:22 AM #

    Haha. You know why I secretly use canned asparagus instead of frozen even though it’s not as tasty? (Well, other than being fifty percent of the price of frozen…) Here’s the answer: it doesn’t make your pee smell funny.

    Not that that’s probably a major issue for most gourmet cooks out there, but I hate eating asparagus and then having funny-smelling pee later! It is so unnerving and weird!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: