WTF happened? On Friday we had all the doors and windows open; today I’ve got an actual wool blanket on my lap, there’s snow and ice everywhere and the wind is howling something fierce. Solution? Baked pasta.
There’s something magical about smoked cheddar that makes this relatively simple casserole into a knockout. The best endorsement of this recipe is that although I officially say it serves 4, in actuality it served me, Michael and Thomas with no leftovers.
I add leftover rotisserie chicken, but ham or cooked bacon are both wonderful, or forego meat completely. I reluctantly do not add peas, simply because Thomas is at that age when peas are fine as long as they DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING. But add 1 to 2 cups of frozen peas if you’re past that phase, or serve with a nice big green salad.
- 340 g rigatoni or penne (¾ of a 450g box)
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 very small red onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups shredded smoked cheddar, divided
- 1 cup chopped chicken or ham
- Cook the rigatoni in a large pot of boiling, salted water until almost tender (less tender than usual – it's going to keep getting tender in the oven!), 2 min less than the package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold running water.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium. Whisk in flour and cook about 15 sec. Whisk in mustard powder. Whisk in chicken broth, about ½ cup at a time, incorporating fully before adding more. Cook until thickened, about 5 min, stirring often. Whisk in 2 cups of the cheese and salt. When cheese is melted, stir in chicken. Remove from heat and stir in rigatoni. Scrape into an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil. Bake 20 min or until very hot, then remove the foil and bake another 10 to 15 min or until the top is brown and bubbly.