Cheesy Mac With Spinach and Ham

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: Panko breadcrumbs are larger and crisper than the traditional crumb. From "One Pan, Whole Family," by Carla Snyder.

• 1 1/4 c. milk

• 1 c. half-and-half

• 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

• 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

• 1 onion, minced

• 5 oz. baby spinach

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 3 tbsp. flour

• 8 oz. Cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese, shredded

• 1 1/2 c. vegetable broth

• 10 oz. elbow macaroni (about 2 c. dry)

• 4 oz. chopped ham

• 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine milk, half-and-half and mustard in a measuring cup and set aside.

Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add 4 tablespoons butter. When butter melts, add onion and sauté until it softens, about 2 minutes. Then add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté until spinach wilts, about 1 minute.

Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Then whisk in milk mixture, stirring constantly. Be sure to scrape up any flour stuck on the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes, and then stir in the cheese. Continue to stir until cheese melts.

Stir in the broth, macaroni and ham. Make sure the pasta is submerged in the liquid, pressing it down. Cover the pan with an ovenproof lid and bake until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

While pasta bakes, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. In a bowl, stir together the melted butter and panko with a fork.

Remove skillet from oven and take off lid. Sprinkle panko topping over pasta. Switch oven setting to broil, return pan to second-highest rack and broil until topping is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve directly from the pan at the table so the food stays hot.