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French Fridays: Gratin de Pâtes au Jambon (Cheesy Pasta Bake)

Cheesy Pasta Bake with Ham from In the French kitchen with kids on eatlivetravelwrite.comHappy French Friday! Today I’m sharing a dish that is completely Covid-pantry friendly, easy to make (so easy that the kids can make it) and a delicious comfort dish for this “in between” season we seem to be having here in Toronto. It’s the Gratin de Pâtes au Jambon (Cheesy Pasta Bake) from In the French kitchen with kids.

I made this with my cooking club boys a couple of years ago and it was a bit win (“so much better than boxed mac n cheese”!).  I felt it was a fitting recipe to make as the recipe to kick off Virtual Cooking Club this week – for a few reasons. Firstly, it uses easy-to-source ingredients and secondly, I KNEW the boys would be able to make this themselves with very little parent intervention. It was a HUGE hit and while I can’t share all the information I gave the boys (a video of the recipe being made step-by-step, checklists of ingredients and equipment), I CAN share the recipe here so you can all enjoy it!

Yield: 6

Gratin de Pâtes au Jambon (Cheese Pasta Bake)

Cheesy Pasta Bake with Ham from In the French kitchen with kids on eatlivetravelwrite.com

This is a French version of mac and cheese, sometimes offered in restaurants as the main course if there happens to be a menu enfant (children’s menu). Though it’s simple, it’s a crowd-pleaser for sure. It’s quite rich thanks to the béchamel sauce and cheese, so serve small portions of it with a green salad for a pasta lunch with a difference.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 4 cups (300 g) dry penne pasta
  • Flaky sea salt, for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning

For the béchamel

  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons (57 g) all- purpose flour
  • 21/2 cups (625 mL) 2% milk

For the gratin

  • 2 cups (120 g) grated Emmenthal or Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices ham, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup (28 g) Panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

    prepare the pasta:

    1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
    2. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

    make the béchamel:

    1. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat, being careful not to let it burn.
    2. Turn down the heat to medium and add the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It will be more like a paste than a sauce at this point.
    3. In the meantime, in a small pot over medium-low heat, bring the milk to a simmer, without letting it boil. You can also do this in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments until it reaches temperature.
    4. Gradually add the warm milk to the flour. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until the mixture thickens slightly, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat.

    assemble the gratin:

    1. Add around one-third of the shredded cheese and the salt and pepper to the béchamel sauce and mix everything well with a wooden spoon.
    2. Add the chopped ham to the pasta and mix to distribute evenly.
    3. Add the béchamel sauce to the pasta along with half of the remaining grated cheese and stir well to combine the sauce into the pasta.
    4. Set the broiler to high (400˚F/200˚C) and place an oven rack in the middle position. At this point, taste the pasta and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and pepper.
    5. Spoon the pasta into a large baking dish (roughly 8 x 12 inches/20 x 30 cm) and top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs.
    6. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden.
    7. Serve warm with a green salad.

Notes

Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Happy French Friday!

Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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One Response to French Fridays: Gratin de Pâtes au Jambon (Cheesy Pasta Bake)

  1. Geoff May 1, 2020 at 20:29 #

    It looks and sound very much like a comfort food dish on a cold day .. which we’re having in Sydney today… (well, not by Canadian standards, perhaps, but cold nevertheless)

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