Is there anything more comforting than a dish of hot Mac & Cheese on a cold, wet night? Or at anytime, really… This version is a family favourite, inspired by a version we had at Bleu, a bistro in the heart of Mashpee Commons in the Cape. You can easily substitute chorizo sausage or kolbassa for the ham if you like a bit more spice. Delicious either way!

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Mac & Cheese with Ham & Red Pepper

A flavourful twist on an old classic, Mac & Cheese. Yum!


  • kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp (3 oz or 85 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 6 tbsp (1.65 oz or 47 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp (0.6 oz or 16 g) Dijon mustard
  • 1 quart whole milk, heated (you can do this in the microwave if you use a glass container)
  • 12 oz (3 c, packed or 340 g) grated extra-sharp white Cheddar
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme, plus 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb (454 g) elbow macaroni or other small pasta
  • 2 c (10.3 oz or 300 g) ham, chopped to 1/2″ dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped to 1/2″ dice
  • 2 c (4 oz or 100 g) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c (1.5 oz or 42 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F Convection Bake or 400°F.
  2. Over high heat, bring a large pot of well-salted water to boiling.
  3. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onion and 1/2 tsp kosher salt until softened, (4 to 5 minutes). Add the flour and stir until the mixture darkens slightly (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in the mustard.
  4. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring constantly. Go slowly at first, whisking until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk. You can add the milk more quickly once you’ve incorporated about half of it. You will likely need to use the wooden spoon at this point.
  5. Add the Cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Add the Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces. Stir in the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Keep warm, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, to let the flavours meld. Fish out and discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Pour into a colander and shake a few times to drain really well. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce along with the chopped ham and red pepper. Stir until well combined. Generously season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish and spread the pasta in the dish.
  7. In a medium bowl, toss the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, olive oil, chopped thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Scatter the crumbs evenly over the pasta.
  8. Bake in the center of the oven until the crumb topping is golden (about 15 minutes). Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before sprinkling with the chopped scallions and serving.


  • Instead of one large baking dish, you can substitute a number of 12 to 16 oz individual ramekins or baking dishes. Fill them to within about 1/2 inch of the rim.
  • I often fill a couple of individual servings for the freezer before I fill the large baking dish. It’s lovely to have a “personal portion” ready for those nights when you’re on your own and just want something comforting to snack on.
  • The recipe yields about 12 cups.
  • Author: Helen Kain

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.