Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pennsylvania Dutch Ham and Noodle Casserole + A Secret Code Contest from Cleo Coyle

While growing up in Pennsylvania, my husband and I both traveled many times through Lancaster County, which is traditional Pennsylvania Dutch country. 

There's good, wholesome eating in that neck of the PA woods. Roadside markets sell fresh baked pies, home-jarred preserves and jellies, and pickled meats and vegetables. The local restaurants feature Amish cooking, too. But in the Keystone State, you don’t have to be Pennsylvania Dutch to find sauerkraut, coleslaw, whoopee pies (invented in Lancaster County) or an egg noodle casserole on your dinner table.

This plain yet delicious casserole is common where Marc and I grew up. Our mothers made different versions. Now we make our own, and that's what we're sharing with you today. Because...

"No joy is complete unless it is shared."

~ Amish Proverb

 So let's get cookin'...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.

Waste not. It's a philosophy Marc and I share with the Amish, who believe in the simplicity of life.

Speaking plainly, we have holiday ham leftovers, and we thought some of you might, too. This is a dish that makes good use of them.

It's a no-bake casserole, so you can stir it together fast on your stove top, yet the results are creamy, cheesy, and delicious.

While there are many versions of this popular Pennsylvania Dutch casserole out there, we stand by our way of doing it. Instead of canned soup, which is often used in these recipes, we prefer a combination of fresh milk and evaporated (the latter for richness). 

For color, texture, and nutrition, we like to add peas and diced carrots (frozen to keep things simple). We use a combination of Swiss and sharp cheddar with the ham, which brings plenty of flavor. We also add sour cream and a bit of mustard powder. These bring the right touch of tangy brightness to the creamy sauce, without overpowering it. The results will snap your taste buds to life (instead of putting them to sleep with a dish that's too bland). This casserole may look plain, but it's amazingly satisfying. We hope you agree. So...

Keep things simple and eat with joy,

~ Cleo

To download a free PDF document
of this recipe that you can print,
save, or share, click here.

Click here for free recipe PDF.

Cleo Coyle's
Pennsylvania Dutch Ham,
Cheese, and Noodle Casserole 


1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon (salted) butter
2 cups cooked ham, diced into small pieces
1-1/2 cups frozen peas and diced carrots
(do not thaw)
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup fresh milk (splash in more for extra creaminess)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder*
2 cups shredded cheese 
(We use 1 cup Swiss and 1 cup sharp cheddar)*
12-ounce package of extra-wide egg noodles,
     cooked and drained
(See our Noodle Note)**
Salt and pepper to taste

*Ingredient notes: Mustard powder works best in this recipe, but in a pinch you can substitute 1 to 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard. As for the cheese, a combination of cheeses is delicious in this recipe. We like to use 1 cup shredded Swiss and 1 cup shredded sharp or mild cheddar or even Colby-Jack. Velveeta is fine if you’re a fan. But it’s so mild that we suggest you combine it with either shredded Swiss or extra-sharp cheddar for better flavor.


Step 1 – S
auté ham and veg for flavor: In a large (at least 4-quart) skillet or saucepan warm the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the ham and sauté for a minute or two. Add the (still) frozen peas and carrots and toss them to coat. (Do not try to cook them in this step, but do toss them enough to get their exteriors glistening with the butter and oil for good flavor in the final dish.)

Step 2 - Create the creamy sauce: Stir in the can of evaporated milk, the fresh milk, sour cream, and mustard powder. Heat to boiling. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Now add the shredded cheese and stir until everything is melted and smooth. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

**Step 3 – Cook the noodles, according to package directions. Al dente is best, do not over-cook. The minute they are well drained, add them to the pan of creamy ham and cheese and heat everything through until bubbling. If you find the sauce on the thick side, splash in a bit more fresh milk. Add salt and pepper to taste 
and eat with joy!

**Noodle Note – While you may be tempted to cook the noodles first, and set them aside while you make the sauce, my advice is don’t. When egg noodles cool, they stick together like the dickens. The result will be a heartbreaking noodle-blob that will ruin your casserole. So be sure to add the egg noodles right after they have been drained, while still hot, and you shouldn't have any problems eating with joy. :)

Recipe PDF

Click here for a free
PFD of this recipe.

May you eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

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  1. I love the cat picture!
    This sounds delicious. And you could replace the ham with leftover turkey or whatever is at hand. Those practical Amish.
    It's the editor in me but, "we like to add diced peas and carrots" Wow! You dice your peas?! Impressive.

    1. Libby – Thanks for the nice words on the cat photo - that’s one of my favorite photos of our newest little New York stray, Durango. He loves the spotlight, and he thanks you for the compliment. Thanks also for catching that misplaced modifier. (I finished up this post ‘round midnight, and text was getting a bit blurry!)

      On the recipe, cooked turkey or chicken would work well in this casserole, too, and I’m sure folks out there have versions like that in their recipe boxes. As I said, this is our take on this type of noodle casserole (using fresh milk instead of canned soup and choosing ingredients that we believe will boost the flavor).

      Because the noodles, cheese, and milk benefit from the salty goodness of the ham, I would suggest using turkey or chicken that is roasted with herbs, something with good flavor, as opposed to something like boiled chicken breast. The flavors in the meat will help boost the flavors in the overall dish. You can also add things like onion powder and/or garlic powder, fresh parsley, maybe some chopped celery, etc. It’s always fun to make recipes your own.

      Cheers, Happy New Year to you, Libby, and thanks again for dropping by the Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. Reading your response has made me hungry!
      Those misplaced modifiers are sneaky buggers, aren't they? I rather liked the idea of "diced peas." I was trying to picture them in my mind.

    3. LOL on the peas. I actually think you *could* dice peas if they were just the right texture between frozen and thawed. If I ever make a very tiny bowl of stew, I'll try it--and think of you. :)

  2. This looks delicious! My kind of meal. The books look good too!

    1. Thanks, Elaine. Marc and I just polished off the last of the leftovers on this casserole, and I should add that this dish reheats beautifully, too. (Tip - A little extra splash of milk in the skillet will keep things creamy as you reheat it.)

      Keep warm on this cold winter's night!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Yup, still have about five pounds of that New Year's ham (don't worry, it's in the freezer), not to mention one hefty hambone (I see pea soup in my future). This is a very welcome recipe.

    1. Thank you, Sheila. “Waste not” works right down to the bone with ham, doesn’t it? We're thinking pea soup might be the right destiny for our hambone, too. And comfort food is such a warm treat on a cold winter’s day. Thanks for dropping by and enjoy your first week of this New Year.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. I remember this kind of casserole. One of my mother's favorites! Thanks for the memory.

    Daryl / Avery

    1. This dish strikes a memory chord each time we feast on it. Thank you, Daryl/Avery, for sharing yours.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. That's it - that's what's for dinner tonight. I've got all the ingredients, and that looks like just what I'm in the mood for, with the temperature zooming down toward single digits. Thanks, my friend!

    1. Laine - We’re in the deep freeze up here tonight, as well! We even had our first snowfall of 2015. So glad to hear today’s recipe post is coming in handy for you--it’s a classic heartwarming meal. And you always warm my heart when you stop by the Kitchen, my friend. Marc and I wish you and your family the very best for a Happy New Year!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Cleo, this is unbelievable. Last night I took my leftover roast pork, some frozen peas and carrots blend along with some cooked celery that I love so much, and put together a noodle dish much like this which was very similar to one that we had at either Plain and Fancy in Lancaster last year in November for our 50th anniversary trip or at one of the other inns in that area. We spent five days in Lancaster County and six other days in Bethlehem etc. For my sauce I use heavy cream and whole milk whish is added to sautéed shallots for lots of flavor. It was very similar to yours as I use the PA Dutch brand noodles as well. I brought home plenty of noodles that I bought at Shady Maple. Along with every spice and herb and every other bulk type seasoning, haha. I just finished my bug supply of onion dip mix and now NEED to get back to Shady Maple for a big refill of it. Thanks for the smile when I saw the photo and read the recipe. It is a very comforting meal along with Sister Shubert's yeast dinner rolls. I very often take photos of my dinners but didn't take one of either the roast pork or the noodle dish. Too much going on with our grandchildren here I guess. Love it when they are here, but no time for taking photos of meals most of the time. I love to take food photos!!!!!

    Did you see how I won a copy of Once Upon a Grind on Escape with Dollycas' page?? I was thrilled.


    1. Cheers, Cynthia, and Happy New Year. Marc and I are so glad you won. Enjoy the book! Thanks for your wonderful comment. You’ve reminded us of good eats from the past. We haven’t been to the Plain and Fancy in years, and recently one of our friends recommended Dienner’s Country Inn in Ronks. And those Sister Shubert's yeast dinner rolls sound good to me right now. Pass the butter! :)

      As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from you, Cynthia, thanks for dropping by and may your New Year be delicious!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Great comfort food (and we need it with this weather!). Thanks, Cleo. I like the tip on the noodles too.



    1. Stay warm, MJ, and cheers on the noodles. My tip is just another version of that old culinary proverb: "The sauce waits for the pasta and not the other way around." Otherwise you've got a 1950's science fiction movie on your hands: Attack of the Noodle Blob. :)

      Thanks for dropping in and have a great first week of the New Year!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. What a darling kitty!

    This would hit the spot in the cold days were having. There's something so comforting about a noodle casserole, and this one sound delicious!

    1. Aw, thanks for the kitty love. Durango is our youngest and he’s still so playful. Is it a peach or a beach ball? Durango can’t decide. And agreed on the casserole, it’s a classic one-pot meal for a cold winter’s night. Marc and I enjoyed sharing it and we’re so glad you stopped by. Thanks again and stay warm this week. The deep freeze is on!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. I know what to do with some left over ham thanks Cleo.