Baked Fusilli Pasta with Ham and Cheese
I’m sure when you see I’ve posted yet ANOTHER pasta recipe you sigh and think, ” Really? Again?” But I just can’t help it. I think in this household, we’ve eaten pasta once a week for as long as I can remember. When we were little, my dad would call spaghetti “wurmpies” (little worms) and even though we only ever really ate it with bolognese sauce (remember, my mom wasn’t the most adventurous cook), pasta in and shape or form brings back intense memories for me.
I think it’s mostly because I link pasta to my dad, and not only because he works with Italians and thinks he’s Italian half of the time (you laugh now, but wait until you say something like Pecorino in a normal accent and he says “Noooo, it’s pronounced PecoRRino”) . My dad’s version of a simple supper is Spaghetti with garlic butter. And a slice of bread. And my the spirits be with you if you over cook pasta if my dad’s eating it. “What did you do? Leave it in there for 3 days?” is something I heard quite often when I first started cooking pasta. And when you under cook it he is quick to say, “This is, um, quite Al dente hey?” Oh the joys of cooking for such a gourmand!
I can’t imagine doing my weekly menu planning without working pasta in there, sometimes even twice. And I’m pretty sure most of you eat pasta weekly as well. I mean, it cooks in less than 15 minutes, you can use pretty much anything on it and it tastes good almost all the time, especially if you keep it simple. I just love it’s versatility and the way it transforms from almost taste-less and bland shapes to the most incredible carrier of flavours, and see? It even makes me speak like a ‘know-it-all’.
So let me get back to this specific pasta recipe. Even though I absolutely adore baked pastas or “Pasta al Forno” as my dad would call it, I only ever make it when I am incredibly lazy and not really in the mood to cook, which is quite stupid actually because it takes less time to just sautè some garlic and mushrooms than make a cream sauce and bake it off for 20 minutes. But I always find that I can cover up some more of my culinary flaws if I bury them in a mountain of cheese, which is exactly what I did with this pasta. Beware, this is NOT for the weight-obsessive amongst us. But a small portion won’t do any harm, especially not if you fill the rest of your plate with salad (yes, yes I know I’m trying to make excuses).
I made a ‘custard-like’ cream sauce instead of a white sauce for this, but if you would rather make the white sauce then feel free to do so. I know there are many of you who are nervous to make a ‘custard’ for pasta and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would probably go the white sauce route as well. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can’t bake the pasta for too long because the egg might start scrambling, this isn’t a catastrophe but it’s better if it doesn’t happen. So keep the cooking time to 15 minutes and you should be safe.
I used 3 different types of cheese in this recipe (Havarti, Grana Padano and Cheddar) but if you only have Cheddar or Gouda in your house, that’s fine too. I just like the sharpness the Grana Padano and Havarti adds to the pasta. And feel free to use the ham of your choice as well, I just really like the smokey flavours of Gypsy Ham. As is the case with most of my recipes, this one is really adaptable and you can add and leave out whatever you want. Bacon, mince or chicken would all be delicious in this, ham is just the laziest way of getting meat into it without me having to do more than chop it up. I fear I’m becoming an incredibly lazy cook lately but right now, I’m just too lazy to worry about that.
500g Fusilli pasta
4 large leeks, washed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g gypsy ham, sliced/cubed
2 cups grated cheese of your choice
500ml reduced fat cream
1tsp dijon mustard
black pepper to taste
Fresh thyme (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the Fusilli for 10-12 minutes until al dente.
- Meanwhile, fry the leeks and garlic in a bit of olive oil (about 2tbsn) in a hot frying pan until soft and fragrant.
- Beat the eggs in a glass jug and add the cream, mustard, salt and pepper.
- Drain the pasta and layer half of it in a suitable oven-proof dish.
- Top the pasta with the chopped ham, fried leeks and garlic and 3/4 of the cheese.
- Add the rest of the pasta and pour over the cream mixture. Sprinkle some fresh Thyme leaves over the pasta and cover with the rest of the cheese.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Other baked pasta recipes :