Cheesy, warm, and delicious! This is the ultimate baked pasta comfort meal to enjoy on a cold day. It is a meal the entire family will enjoy.

This meal is sure to please even picky eaters. It makes a great cozy Sunday meal, or make it in the morning and bake it in the evening on a busy weeknight. It is indulgent and super satisfying. Grab a bowl and feel the “amore” in this baked pasta meal.

0Z4A9429 668x1024, CucinaByElena

What is Bechamel?

“Bechamel” is a milk-based sauce that’s thickened with a roux of flour and butter – it’s a classic French sauce (considered one of the “mother” sauces) but it’s used often in many other cuisines, including Italian. This dish is perfect for cold, winter days for dinner – it’s the ultimate comfort food!

How do you know when your bechamel is done?

Know your béchamel is done: A properly thickened roux should “coat the back of the spoon,” which means dip your spoon into the béchamel and then draw a finger through the coated spoon. Does the sauce wipe clean, leaving an open space? Then your béchamel is done and ready. It will also stick to the spoon like in this photo.

bechamel sauce in pan

Simple Ingredients

  • 1 recipe for bechamel sauce (see recipe)
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Grated parmigiano cheese 
  • Bread crumbs 
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Thinly sliced prosciutto (or ham of choice- see below for suggestions), cut into thin strips
  • Short pasta, such as small shells, ziti, or rigatoni
Baked Bechamel ham and cheese pasta

What kind of ham can I use?

I like to add prosciutto or hickory smoked ham. The prosciutto adds a fantastic Italian flavor to each bite. I also love the rich and smoky taste of smoked ham. You really can’t go wrong! Here are some more alternatives:

  • Cooked bacon or pancetta
  • Canadian ham
  • Leftover ham roast cut into bite sized pieces

Stir in the desired ham and see how wonderful it all comes together int his delicious dish.

Vegetarian Options:

Sauté veggies in a little olive oil and add it to this baked pasta dish.

Try:

  • Fresh spinach (make sure ALL liquid is removed)
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
  • Cut asparagus

Make sure the veggies are cooked until tender, but not overcooked, since they will continue cooking in the oven.

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Can I make this baked ham and cheese pasta of time?

Make ahead If you need to make it a day before using, refrigerate the assembled pasta meal before baking. Add about 10 minutes to the baking time if baking pasta that is refrigerated.

Leftovers …Oh yes! In fact, baked pasta tastes even better the longer it sets. If you assemble and bake the pasta ahead of time, it keeps in the fridge for about three days. Pasta should not be left to sit out in the open uncovered for more than two hours. Make sure to store your leftovers after your meal!

Baked Bechamel ham and cheese pasta on a plate

From my Cucina to your Table! Mangia! (Eat!)

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SIMPLE Mashed Potatoes (dairy free) and Caramelized Onions

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Baked Bechamel ham and cheese pasta close up in pan

Have you checked out my NEW CBE PRODUCTS? Take a look at the 2-in-1 cutting and charcuterie board, gorgeous apron, and unique pasta server that you that you absolutely need. The wood products are all handmade in Salt Lake City, Utah. They make great gifts as well!

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Baked Bechamel ham and cheese pasta take a piece out of pan

Baked Ham and Cheese Pasta Bechamel Sauce

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Cheesy, warm, and delicious! This is the ultimate baked pasta comfort meal to enjoy on a cold day. It is a meal the entire family will enjoy. This meal is sure to please even picky eaters. It makes a great cozy Sunday meal, or make it in the morning and bake it in the evening on a busy weeknight. It is indulgent and super satisfying. Grab a bowl and feel the “amore” in this baked pasta meal.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 6 tbsp butter unsalted
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour all purpose
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons parmigiano
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto (or ham of choice), cut into thin strips
  • 1 pound dry short pasta, such as shells or rigatoni

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Make the Bechamel Sauce (can be made days in advance and stored in fridge):  In a medium saucepan on low medium heat melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until well combined with butter. Keep whisking for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of ingredients: milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk everything together. Cook for another 10 minutes and keep whisking as it gets thicker. Add the parmigiano and stir to combine. You will know it is ready when it sticks to the back of the spoon. Turn off heat and set aside.*
  3. In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes before al dente cooking time. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still a bit hard. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Drain pasta. Return pasta to the pot and pour in bechamel sauce. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Stir in the ham and basil.
  4. Into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish, pour the pasta with cream sauce and ham. Smooth out top and sprinkle with mozzarella, parmiggiano, and bread crumbs. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Notes

*Know your béchamel is done: A properly thickened roux should “coat the back of the spoon,” which means dip your spoon into the béchamel and then draw a finger through the coated spoon. Does the sauce wipe clean, leaving an open space? Then your béchamel is done and ready. 

Keywords: pasta, ham and cheese, baked pasta, easy pasta, easy dinner, Italian recipe