A creamy béchamel flavored with Parmesan cheese and black pepper sauces ham and peas in this penne pasta dish for one.
Why it works
This was one of those nights when I hadn’t set aside any protein to defrost and had mainly pantry ingredients available to throw together a quick dinner. It was ham to the rescue – I routinely freeze two slices of deli ham per snack size ziploc bag when I bring home a package, and just pull out a bag to defrost in a bowl of water in the fridge for dinner in a pinch – by the time the pasta is cooking the ham has at least partially defrosted which makes it fine to use in this pasta.
I always have frozen green peas on hand, which lend some color. Garlic sautéed in butter starts the sauce out with a lot of savory flavor. Milk, penne and parmesan are also always around in my kitchen. So it is never a problem to make this last minute pasta on those days when dinner is not exactly planned out.
I serve the pasta with a bowl of shredded kale which I simmer in salted water about 15 minutes, until tender, to add healthy vegetables to the meal.
Ham and Cheese Penne
2 cups sliced kale
1 cup penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
2 slices deli ham
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, black pepper
Place shredded kale in a saucepan with salted water to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain and season to taste with salt.
Meanwhile bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and stir in the pasta. Reduce heat and cook at a strong simmer 10-15 minutes, until pasta is tender. Add the peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large skillet. Chop ham and sauté briefly in the butter over medium-low heat until moisture begins to cook away. Remove the ham and reserve in a small bowl.
Add sliced garlic to the butter in the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes, until softened. Whisk in flour and cook 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw flavor. Whisk in the milk, incorporating the flour and raise the heat to a strong simmer. Whisk about 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
Stir reserved ham into the white sauce and heat through. Season with 1/8 tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper, or to taste. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Drain the pasta and peas and stir into the sauce.
Serve with kale on the side.