I found this to be very bland, even though I added WAY more red pepper than the recipe called for, plus crushed red pepper flakes. I think the problem was the cheese sauce. I took other reviewers' advice and added some flour to thicken the sauce - this worked beautifully! I also added the cheese to the milk very slowly so that it would all melt and blend well, which also worked great. Everything just turned out very dry, and there was almost no cheese flavor at all! I expected this to be creamy like mac and cheese, but I was wrong. Maybe there is too much pasta - I should have tried a 14.5oz package instead of the 16oz package that the recipe called for. I won't waste my time making this again.
Ham and Cheese Macaroni Bake with Peas
nokids77 Posted: 11/15/08
JasonM Posted: 04/22/09
I am a very experienced home cook and I typically love all of the recipes I try from Cooking Light. In spite of all the bad reviews, I decided to attempt this recipe because the photo looked so tasty and I figured I could figure out how to fix the recipe if necessary. As a precaution, I even added 1Tbsp of AP flour to the sauce before mixing it all together and putting it in the oven for 20 mins. After 20 mins, the pasta was getting nice and crisp on top, but the "sauce" was still milk with cheese melted into it. I then put foil over the pan and baked for another 20 mins which effectively caused the pasta to absorb the liquid. Overall, bland and NOTHING like what the photo promised. There are several far more superior pasta recipes from CL. This one needs to be reviewed by the magazine for sure.
VWgirl Posted: 11/16/09
OK. I had read the reviews before making this and subsequently made a couple of changes. I added a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to the milk and a little extra cheese to thicken it up. However, when I put it in the pan it looked terrible. I had a big glob of melted cheese in warm milk. I was pretty sure I was going to be pulling a Lean Cuisine out of the freezer. I put it in the oven anyway and let it sit for a few minutes after taking it out. Surprise, it actually turned out pretty good. Just don't be discouraged by how it looks before you bake it!
dhiginbothom Posted: 10/27/09
Remember folks, this is a light recipe. For not having all of the fat that a GREAT mac 'n cheese does, it's a good casserole for a weeknight. You need to also follow the recipe to the letter. Make sure you do not overcook your pasta from the get-go. The recipe calls for 6 min and that's all it should be. I used a little extra cheese, not much, but I think it helped to decrease the soupiness. I did not add any flour. I might add that I did not feel guilty at all eating this. It fit the bill for a quick weeknight dinner WITHOUT all the fat. Also, you can't beat it for a one pot meal with a quick salad.
CV91915 Posted: 01/13/10
I wanted to call this dish "awful", but it isn't. Something with no flavor needs a different adjective. I made this early on in my transition from eating bacon and cheese on everything to lighter fare to lose a few extra pounds. I was lured into making this by the prospect of a brief rendezvous with my beloved cheese, but OMG, to experience less flavor, one would have to laminate his tongue before dinner. I experiment with a lot of recipes, but I made this one as-is. I'm not sure what my magic dried shallots, roasted garlic slices or chili garlic sauce could do to this, but in the unlikely event I would make this again, I'm going in with everything in the cupboard.
Jenna012 Posted: 02/21/10
I did not read the reviews before I made...found it in the magazine and thought it looks great. The first time I made it, it was excellent...second time turned out more like the rest. The first time, I must not have used enough milk? I also substituted white elbow macaroni with whole wheat macaroni & used whole wheat bread crumbs I made instead of from a can. That seemed to give it a better flavor than the second time...which was good, but not great like the first.
nanbeme Posted: 12/27/11
The recipe fails to mention that your making a non traditional roux and if you're not careful it will all clump together like mine did!!! I tried twice and neither time would it cream together. I had cut the recipe in half maybe that was the problem. Good luck. ps, then I read all of the other reviews...seems I'm not the only one!!
kwatts123 Posted: 10/26/11
I made my cheese mixture twice!!!! I can make home made mac and cheese all day long and it turns out fine. Cheese should melt and be very creamy. Did that happen with this ....NO. Waste of a weekday evening. DO NOT MAKE according to instructions if your going to do it. I wouldn't make this again. Waste of money :(
EmilyLane Posted: 11/12/12
Ditto everyone else who said they should have read the reviews first. Three cups of milk does not thicken without a thickener and boiling at least one minute.
Marionstanton Posted: 04/07/13
Terrible recipe. Needed to follow the suggestion of daneanp to make a cream sauce and add cheese. The dish was very watery--not appealing at all. Very disappointing.
daneanp Posted: 02/03/13
Recipe directions are incorrect. Do this for step 3: Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in saucepan and saute the chopped onion as the recipe says. Then stir in 1/3 cup of flour. Using a whisk, add preheated 3 cups of milk. Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and add cheeses - stir until melted. The only other change I made was to use packaged bread crumbs over the top without adding the butter to that step. So this reduces the recipe's total fat as well.