Ham-Spinach Pasta in Bechamel Sauce

Ham-Spinach Pasta in Bechamel Sauce
While the sharing of this dish is a bitter-sweet part of  my family's story , it's is a good dish to share when you have a sudden opportunity to do good for someone. 

When I contact someone about bringing them a meal, I describe it as a sort of dressed-up mac-n-cheese, and it is. Its mild flavors and rich sauce make it a comfort food without being ordinary. The spinach--for families with young children or selective eaters--is easily left out. (It's prettier with it, but it still tastes good without the touch of green.)

It's also fairly inexpensive to make and very quick. The main parts of the dish (pasta, spinach, ham) are easily kept in the freezer or pantry for a super fast meal if you happen to have the milks and cheese on hand. From putting the water on to boil to dishing it into a disposable lasagna pan takes less than an hour, so it's perfect for a last-minute helping-hand dish.   

Ham-Spinach Pasta in Bechamel Sauce
(Absolutely NOT diabetic friendly except in "just-enough-to-make-you-mad" sized servings)

Servings: 6-8 entree-size servings
Time: 45 minutes, including cooking the pasta
Attributes: comfort food most will enjoy, easy to make, reheats like a dream, relatively inexpensive to share 

6 T butter
2 onions sliced thin
4 T flour
1 can chicken broth
1 c whipping cream
1 c half-and-half
1/2 c milk
1 t salt
1 t dried thyme*
1/4 t cayenne (it only adds interest--not heat--I promise)
1/4 c Parmesan cheese shreds
1/2-1 c mozzarella cheese shreds
1 ham steak, sliced into cubes
1 10-ounce box spinach, thawed and drained
1 8-ounce box pasta (penne, bowties, rigatoni) 
  1. Cook pasta in Dutch oven as directed on package and drain. Reserve.
  2. Melt butter in the same Dutch oven.
  3. Add onions and saute until clear.
  4. Add flour and stir until it "disappears."
  5. Add broth and milks. If it's too thick-looking, add more milk, but don't go overboard.
  6. Add cheeses, pasta, ham, and spinach. Stir until well-mixed, then add salt and thyme. *NOTE: a friend wrote to tell me that one teaspoon is much more thyme than her family cared for, so you might want to start with 1/4 t and work your way up. (Thanks, Peggy!) The original recipe--wherever it came from--really does call for 1 t, and that's the way we eat it.
  7. Heat through. If you'd like a crunchier dish, put in a buttered casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Add some cheese to the top and lightly brown. (I don't do this for us, but I share it in a disposable aluminum pan that can be kept warm in the recipient's oven until they're ready to eat.)
Ready to deliver. A double recipe fed thirteen people with generous leftovers!
Easy sides to share: a salad in a zipper bag, a small bottle of dressing, and a pan of homemade or store-bought rolls.That's all you need. 

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, 
especially to those who belong to the family of believers." 
--Galatians 6:10

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