This speedy Asparagus-and-Ham Casserole is pure comfort food and needs only 10 minutes to bake. That's because most of the prep work (cooking pasta and making a light cream sauce) is done on the stovetop. Simply bake to brown the breadcrumbs and make the filling bubbly. Because of the delicate flavors in this dish, we preferred using a mild baked ham to a smoked one.
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread
3 3/4 cups uncooked extra-broad egg noodles
2 1/2 cups (1 1/2-inch) sliced asparagus
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed ham (about 8 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form to measure 1/2 cup.
Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus; cook 1 minute. Drain.
Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Place flour, thyme, salt, and pepper in medium bowl; gradually add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk until well-blended. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; saute 4 minutes. Add milk mixture; cook until thick (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in juice. Combine the pasta mixture, milk mixture, ham, and parsley in large bowl; spoon into a 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese.
Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.