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.
6 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
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.