Baked Shells and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy-Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
Adding toasted whole-wheat breadcrumbs gives this dish a nice crunch that balances out the creaminess of the sauce. Rather than baking the shells with the crumbs on top (which can make them soggy), toast the breadcrumbs separately, and toss a handful over each serving right before you put it on the table.
Photography: Chris Testani
Martha Stewart Living, February 2012
- Prep Time 15 minutes
- Total Time 55 minutes
- Serves 8
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small head cauliflower, cored and chopped (3 cups)
- 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 4 medium shallots, roughly chopped
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups skim milk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 6 ounces pecorino cheese, grated (2 cups)
- 1/2 pound medium multigrain pasta shells
- 1/4 pound sliced smoked ham, chopped
- 1 medium bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets (5 cups)
- 1/2 cup toasted whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), for serving (optional)
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, shallots, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; stir to coat well.
- Gradually stir in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; gently simmer until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer all to a blender, and puree with nutmeg and half the pecorino until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain well; return to pot. Add ham, broccoli, and cauliflower sauce; toss to combine. Transfer to a ovenproof 3 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino, and bake until bubbling in center, about 30 minutes. Heat broiler, and broil until golden brown on top, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Divide among dishes, top with breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.
The robust flavors of pecorino and smoked ham allow you to use less without sacrificing taste.
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