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.
So let's get cookin'...
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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...
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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 – Sauté 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. :)
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