There is something about this time of the year that makes me crave casseroles. This is a foreign concept to Mr. O-P, who tends to like his ingredients separated from one another. Me? I like the ease of assembly, the ability to make ahead (usually early in the day before I get too busy and completely forget about dinner), and I love the coziness of eating it at a small table for two in front of a crackling fire accompanied by some crusty bread and a glass of wine.
This is a tasty dish that would serve equally well, I think, for both a formal brunch and weeknight dinner. The combination of ingredients includes broccoli and roasted red peppers, so the colors are appropriately festive and suitable for the season. As with all casseroles, feel free to experiment. Add water chestnuts instead of celery for the crunch. No roasted red peppers? Substitute pimiento. Toast some slivered almonds to stir in with the onions for more depth of flavor. No ham? Try cubed breast of chicken. As far as cheese, the Gruyere/Fontina combination, in my opinion, can't be beat, but use what you have on hand. Whatever you do, make this dish, light a fire, warm some plates, and enjoy!
Crunchy Ham Casserole
1 cup Gemelli (or other spiral pasta)
1 cup cubed ham
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 scallions, chopped
1 Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
1 (10 oz.) can cream of chicken soup with herbs (I used Campbell's)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Crystal)
1 cup fresh broccoli florets, cooked and drained
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup Fontina cheese, grated
1 can Durkee® French fried onions, divided
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Fill a medium (2.5-3 quart) saucepan with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Blanch broccoli for three minutes, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. In the same pan with broccoli water, cook the pasta according to package directions.
In a medium bowl, combine pasta, ham, celery, scallions, red pepper, and 1/2 cup of the French fried onions. Pour ingredients into a 1.5-2 quart casserole. In a separate bowl whisk together soup, sour cream, milk, and hot sauce. Pour half of the sauce over the pasta mixture. Arrange broccoli on top. Pour remaining sauce over broccoli. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with remaining French fried onions. Bake for 5-7 minutes longer until hot and bubbly.
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