How did you spend the Christmas holidays?
I hope you were surrounded by the people you love or had video calls with them if you weren’t together.
I consider myself lucky to have been surrounded by family.
We had made the five-hour drive from Biel, Switzerland, to our in-laws in Germany the weekend before Christmas and we are staying here until around 3 Kings. We haven’t decided yet when we are definitely driving back as Tobi, my husband, and Becca have holidays until the 10th of January.
Tobi and I did get tested before we left as we didn’t want to be unknowingly bringing the corona virus if we were asymptomatic. Thankfully, the results were negative.
We were happy to get a change of scenery and to be able to spend time with Oma, Opa, and their cousin. Though we hardly left the house as it has been raining. Sadly, not so much snow. If it ever did snow, it melted almost immediately.
It’s quite a shame, really, as the kids wanted to build a snowman.
Today’s recipe came about as I had to clean up the fridge and use up as much food as we can before we left for the holidays.
I had cooked a one-kilo ham during the week, which was obviously too much for the four of us and I had a lot of leftovers. I also had two large very ripe tomatoes sitting on the counter that wouldn’t survive a long drive to Germany.
I wanted to make fried rice, but the rest of the family requested pasta. So, I obliged.
Macaroni and cheese with ham and stewed tomatoes
Of course, you can still make this even if you have no leftover ham, either omit it or buy some.
300 g dried macaroni pasta or other small shaped pasta
For the stewed tomatoes:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced (around 1 ½ cups)
Olive oil or butter
For the bechamel sauce
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups full fat milk, or half cream and half milk, heated but not boiled (microwave or stove-top)
½ of a chicken bouillon cube, or ½ tsp chicken stock powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon or whole-grain mustard (optional)
2 cups grated cheese (Queso de bola, cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan, or your favorite melting cheese)
1 cup leftover ham, diced
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Cook your pasta according to the package instructions, but taking it off the heat and draining one minute before it is done. It will continue cooking in the oven.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish (8×8-inch square pan or 9×7-inch oblong casserole dish) and set aside.
Heat a medium frying pan to medium heat, pour in around two teaspoons of olive oil or butter, and sauté the minced garlic. Add in the tomatoes and cook for around 20 minutes until the tomatoes have lost its moisture and reduced to a nice bubbly sauce.
While the tomatoes are cooking down, make the bechamel. In a saucepan large enough to contain your cooked pasta, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir constantly with a spatula for at least two minutes to cook the flour. Don’t let it brown.
Then add the hot milk slowly, stirring well to make a smooth sauce. Bring it to a boil then season with salt, pepper, the chicken stock cube/powder, and the mustard, if using.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Remember that you are still adding cheese and be mindful of how salty the cheese you are using is.
Stir in half of the grated cheese. Taste again to see if more seasoning is needed. Add in the cooked pasta and chopped ham and mix well.
Pour in half the pasta into the buttered pan. Drop spoonfuls of the stewed tomatoes then pour in the rest of the pasta over. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top and bake in the oven until bubbly and the cheese has melted and is starting to brown, around 20 minutes.
Take out and let cool for a few minutes before serving.*