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The City and The Country Mac and Cheese

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

 

Hands-on time 40 mins
Total time 1 hr, 25 mins
Yield Makes 8 to 10 servings
Smoky cubes of brined city ham and salty bits of country ham give this main-course mac its name and savory appeal. Pasta enrobed with a creamy sauce and melting pockets of gooey cheese take it over the top.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta
  • 4 cups diced smoked, fully cooked ham
  • 1 cup diced country ham
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups diced Gruyère or Swiss cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs (about 4 white bread slices)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente.

  2. Stir together smoked ham and country ham. Sauté half of ham mixture in 1 Tbsp. hot oil in a large skillet 7 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining ham mixture and oil.

  3. Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and next 5 ingredients, and sauté 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until golden brown and smooth. Gradually whisk in milk and cream, and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until slightly thickened and mixture coats a spoon. Stir in horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat, and stir in Cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in pasta, ham, and Gruyère; pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

  4. Process breadcrumbs and 2 Tbsp. melted butter in a food processor 6 to 7 seconds to combine. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

  5. Bake on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool 15 minutes. Top with chives.

  6. Note: We tested with Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar.