My sister sent me this recipe yesterday. I loved it! It won the Denver regional Tillamook macaroni and cheese contest and I must say it is YUMMY! And don't be put off by the ingredients, Jason wasn't so sure about the recipe before he ate it. Then he ate half of a 9x13 pan.
Also - I put in more spices then it calls for, but not a ton. Just enough to give it some more kick. The original recipe also called for half pepper jack and half Swiss cheese, but I did mostly Swiss with some Monterey jack thrown in.
Pear & Ham Mac & Cheese
12-16 ounces penne pasta
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
1 cup D'Anjou pear, finely diced
1 cup smoked ham, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 cups Swiss cheese/Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, add macaroni to boiling water. Return water to a boil, and reduce heat. Boil macaroni, uncovered, for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally or until pasta is al dente. Drain.
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add pear, ham, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and black pepper sautéing for 2 additional minutes or until onions are translucent. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir milk into flour mixture. Heat mixture on medium high heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Once boiling stir mixture for 1 minute and remove from heat. Turn off heat and add 1 1/2 cup each of Monterey jack and swiss cheeses. Combine cheese with milk mixture until melted. Add drained macaroni and stir until completely combined. Pour into 3-quart casserole. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm.