My family loves pasta dishes! This dish is an original one created by me as a way to use up some leftovers and have a filling, tasty meal. We love Mac and Cheese, Alfredo Sauce and Pesto Sauce so…. I came up with the following dish. It makes a lot at one time, so I buy the casserole pans with cardboard covers at the Dollar Store and freeze a few meals to use later (if you happen to be blessed with lots of glass or metal casserole dishes in your home, just wrap the pans with aluminum foil and label the foil before freezing).
2 lbs rigid elbow pasta (or penne, or ziti)
2 packs smoked sausage (kielbasa), diced
4 cups diced ham (I had ham leftover from Sunday dinner, so I diced some of that)
3 cups frozen peas
1 large onion, diced finely
1 stick of butter
12 oz pesto (I make my own, but you can use grocery store pesto)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk
Salt and Pepper to taste (I use very little salt, but we love pepper, so I give a good dose of that)
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
12 oz grated Parmesan cheese
24 oz grated mozzarella cheese
Cook Pasta in boiling water for 3 minutes LESS than the package directions recommend (because the pasta is going to be baked in a sauce and this will keep it from turning mushy during that second cook time), drain and set aside in a large bowl. Add diced sausage, diced ham and frozen peas to the bowl. Mix it all up very well.
In a 4 – 6 quart pan, on medium heat, melt stick of butter and add diced onion. Saute’ onion until it is soft, translucent and just beginning to caramelize. Add 1 cup of flour to start making a roux and cook for about a minute to cook the flour a little bit.
Slowly add the milk, while stirring, to make gravy (aka béchamel sauce). Stir and cook until the gravy is thickened, about 15 – 20 minutes.
Do not stop stirring or your flour will stick and burn at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, add granulated garlic. Stir in Parmesan cheese and stir until it is melted.
Stir in pesto sauce and mix well.
Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mix and stir well to mix up all the ingredients.
Spray casserole pans with nonstick spray. Fill pans with the pasta mixture and use the back of a spoon to level them off.
Top with grated mozzarella cheese.
Write on the cardboard covers “350 degrees, until cheese melts and is bubbly” on the top. I like to add the date prepared and the name of the dish as well. If freezing, place flat in freezer until frozen. When making for a meal, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake for about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
I have substituted other vegetables for the peas successfully – some of these substitutions include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives.
Other substitutions I have made are to use chicken and bacon instead of ham and sausage. The sky is really the limit on substitutions, get creative!
We serve this meal with a salad and toasted garlic bread. The leftovers make a great lunch.