Orecchiette with Ham and Peas in Cheese Sauce

Grown-up mac & cheese!

Orecchiette with Ham and Peas in Cheese Sauce

Photo by thatjerseygirl

  • Prep Time


  • Total Time


  • Servings



  • Kosher salt

  • 4

    oz. (½ cup) unsalted butter, more for the baking dish

  • 1

    pound crecchiette or other small shell pasta

  • 1

    large shallot, finely diced (about ¼ cup)

  • ¼

    cup unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 3

    cups whole milk, warmed

  • 2

    cups freshly grated Grana Padano

  • 2

    tsp. chopped fresh thyme

  • ¼

    tsp Tabasco

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • ¾

    lb. ham steak, cut into ½-inch dice

  • 2

    cups frozen peas, thawed

  • ½

    cup fresh breadcrumbs, or panko

  • 1

    Tbs. olive oil


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and add the pasta; cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta well, and return the pasta to the pot. Meanwhile, for the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and becomes translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it turns golden and smells nutty, about 1 minute. Whisk in the mik in a slow, steady stream and cook, whisking occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in all but 1/2 cup of the Grana Padano, the thyme Tabasco, 1 1/2 tsps pepper and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir the ham and peas into the Bechamel; taste and add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Stir 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the bechamel so it loosens a bit and then toss with the pasta in the pasta pot. Add more pasta water as needed. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake the pasta until it bubbles and browns around the edges, about 20 minutes (if the top browns too quickly, cover with foil). Let cool for a couple fo minutes, then serve.


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