Mac and Cheese with Ham is a creamy, cheesy dish that pairs tender pasta with a rich cheese sauce, savory ham, and sweet peas. It's comfort in a bowl and an instant family favorite. It's one of the best mac and cheese recipes out there!
One of my favorite things about fall is the food. We make some of the best meals during the cooler months.
This mac and cheese with ham and peas is one of our favorites. I have plenty of mac and cheese recipes, but John especially loves this one.
It's packed with sharp cheddar cheese, shell pasta noodles, leftover diced ham, and sweet peas all in one bowl. It's perfect as a full meal or serve it as a side dish.
- Dairy: We used whole milk for our mac and cheese with ham recipe, but feel free to use a mixture of milk and heavy cream for an ultra creamy sauce.
- Noodles: Elbow noodles work great in place of shells and make this a classic macaroni and cheese recipe! Most small noodles that are roughly the same size as medium shells or elbow noodles will work.
- Cheese: Swap out sharp cheddar cheese with extra sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Monterey jack, or a combination of cheeses.
We haven't tried this recipe with gluten-free or vegan ingredients, and can't say how those would work as substitutions.
We love this ham mac and cheese as-is, but there is certainly some room for customizations. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Spicy: Add some heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or a couple dashes of hot sauce.
- Protein: Switch up the protein and use diced turkey, chicken, smoked sausage, or steak instead of ham.
- Veggies: Use some frozen mixed vegetables or broccoli instead of peas.
Refrigerator: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Freezer: We don't recommend freezing this recipe.
Reheating: Reheat mac and cheese on the stove top over low heat or in the microwave on half power. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if it seems dry.
- I know a lot of people prefer pre-shredded, bagged cheese. It's easy and convenient, and we love it, too. Just not for this recipe. Bagged cheese tends to make the sauce too thick, gritty, and clumpy. Try to shred your own if possible.
- Don't drop all the cheese into the pan at one time. It's cold and will lower the temperature of the sauce and the pan. This makes it difficult for the cheese to melt, and it will stick to the bottom of the pan.
- If you aren't sure how much salt and pepper you'd like to use, wait and add it at the end. Ham and cheese are both salty, so it's best to taste everything and only add extra salt if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the mac and cheese gritty?
Gritty mac and cheese happens sometimes when you use bagged cheese. Try to shred your own when possible.
Another reason is the use of milk. Using whole milk is better than 2% milk, but it can still cause a gritty texture. Consider swapping half the milk with heavy cream or half and half for a smoother consistency.
Should the ham be cooked?
Yes, the ham needs to be pre-cooked, diced ham. If you have leftover Christmas ham or maybe a spiral Easter ham, this is a great use for it.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
- 8 ounces medium shell pasta, about 3 cups
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 3 cups whole milk
- 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 ½ cups diced ham
- 1 cup peas, frozen or canned
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook the noodles. Meanwhile, prepare the cheese sauce.8 ounces medium shell pasta
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour, ground mustard, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until smooth.¼ cup unsalted butter¼ cup all-purpose flour1 teaspoon ground mustardSalt and pepper
- While whisking, slowly add the milk. Let it steep until steam rises from the pan, but don't boil!3 cups whole milk
- Add small amounts of cheese to the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Make sure the cheese melts completely before adding more. Keep adding and whisking until smooth.16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- Drain the noodles and return them to the pan. Add the cheese sauce, peas, and ham, then stir to combine. Serve warm!1 ½ cups diced ham1 cup peas
- Scroll up and see the post for tips, FAQs, and storage options.