August 19, 2011

Ham Rotini Casserole

This is one of those dishes that grew out of a sudden desire for a creamy pasta, which is actually a pretty common occurrence in my household. In this case, there was also a coincidental need to use up some yoghurt. For some reason, ham seemed to be the perfect thing to tie it all together, since I wasn't feeling particularly in a stroganoff-y mood. Originally there were supposed to be mushrooms, as well (some creminis which also needed using up), but I completely forgot about them until I was putting the pan into the oven, and it was simply too late.

The sauce is very creamy, and a little cheesy without feeling like a cheese pasta, perhaps because the yoghurt gives it a little tanginess that cuts through the richness. While this is no health food item, with salty ham and rich yoghurt, it is still better for you than most big ol' plates of pasta at a casual restaurant, so that's some additional comfort for a comfort food dinner.

Ham Rotini Casserole
Serves 4

200 grams rotini
125 grams boneless cooked ham, diced
1 2/3 cups 1% Milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon chicken base (such as Better than Bouillon)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 cup plain, thick yoghurt (such as Liberte Mediterranee)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (230 degrees C). Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the rotini according to the package directions (until it is just a little underdone).

In a large skillet, melt butter and stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, bouillon paste, salt, garlic, and pepper. Stir all together and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat; add ham cubes, cheese and yoghurt. Stir until cheese is melted. Add the drained pasta, and stir through to combine. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

Optional topping: Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in saucepan and stir in breadcrumbs and some finely chopped parsley. Sprinkle crumb mixture over casserole before baking. I was totally going to do that, but then (again) completely forgot. Seems to have been my day for forgetting things.

I debated trying to shoe-horn some vegetable matter into the casserole, but in the end decided that it really wanted to be a very simple sort of dish rather than a one pot meal (as fond of those as I am). I decided in the end to make a tossed green salad with rather a lot of chopped veggies in it - cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, tomatoes, etc., partly to make up for the indulgence of the pasta, but mostly to give dinner a little freshness and crunchiness, both things that don't exactly go with the creamy hammy territory.

This dish was immediately voted "into the book", about two bites into dinner. The next time I've got some yoghurt to use up, I'll definitely be thinking of this one.

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