Stovetop mac and cheese with ham and pearl onions is an elevated take on the classic dish. If you're looking for ways to use up leftover ham from the holidays, look no further!
Rich and creamy, with a hint of sweet and savory flavor, this stovetop white cheddar mac and cheese is the perfect recipe to make with leftover ham from the holidays.
Making mac and cheese with ham might sound odd to some of you, but think of it as the grown up version of the hot dog pieces your mom used to stir into your Kraft macaroni as a kid — only way better!
The frozen pearl onions add a subtly sweet flavor that pairs so well with the salty roast ham. To amp up the flavors even more, I used shredded white cheddar cheese rather than regular cheddar.
If you're still not sure what to make with all that leftover ham you have sitting in your fridge, I've got your solution right here! Keep reading.
Also try my Ham and Pea Pasta for another family-pleasing way to serve ham.
Making mac and cheese on the stovetop is incredibly simple. Cavatappi pasta is boiled until al dente while you're making the silky cheese sauce.
The cheese sauce is thickened with a mixture of melted butter and flour. A pinch of nutmeg and garlic powder add a pop of flavor.
When buying the white cheddar, I highly recommend buying an actual block of cheese and grating it yourself. Shredded cheeses are typically coated in an anti-caking agent of some kind, which often makes cheese sauces grainy.
Of course, we can't forget the frozen pearl onions or the leftover ham in this recipe!
How to Make Mac and Cheese with Ham & Pearl Onions
I made this homemade white cheddar mac and cheese recipe on the stovetop in an effort to minimize post-holiday dishes. It's one of the quickest and easiest uses for leftover ham, and my family loved it!
Here's a quick overview of how the mac and cheese with ham is made:
- In an oiled skillet, cook the pearl onions until golden brown. Stir in the chopped ham.
- While the onions cook, bring the pasta water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.
- In another pot, whisk together the cheese sauce. You'll need to whisk it continuously to prevent lumps from forming.
- Add the cooked pasta, onions, and ham to the cheese sauce.
- Top with fresh parsley and toasted breadcrumbs, if desired.
Tip: I've given detailed instructions on how to toast your own breadcrumbs in the recipe card below!
How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last?
Leftover mac and cheese can be stored in the fridge for up to five days. Be sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent the pasta from drying out.
Mac and cheese can also be frozen for up to three months. Let it cool completely before sealing inside a freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
For best results, freeze the mac and cheese without the toasted breadcrumbs on top. When you're ready to eat it, reheat gently in the microwave or in the oven.
What Goes With Mac and Cheese?
Not sure what to serve with your mac and cheese with ham and pearl onions? Here are some sides for mac and cheese that I love:
If making this after Thanksgiving or Christmas, feel free to reheat other leftovers alongside the mac and cheese!
Tips for Making Mac and Cheese with Leftover Ham
- I used cavatappi pasta in this recipe, but any short and sturdy pasta will work.
- If you're making this mac and cheese after the holidays, feel free to substitute store-bought cubed ham that's been pre-cooked.
- Be sure to buy a block of white cheddar cheese and shred it yourself. You'll create a silkier cheese sauce this way.
More Leftover Ham Ideas:
Mac and Cheese with Ham and Pearl Onions
- 8 ounces frozen pearl onions (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons avocado or canola oil
- ½ pound cavatapi pasta
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups (6 ounces) grated white cheddar
- 8 ounces diced roast ham (about 1½ cups)
- Toasted breadcrumbs
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
- Heat oil in a medium skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add pearl onions and reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep golden brown in parts, about 15 minutes. Add ham to the skillet and set aside.
- While onions are cooking, boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Use the pasta pot to save a dish, and melt butter in pot over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine with the butter, then whisk in the milk and stir until no flour lumps remain. Stir in nutmeg, garlic powder and salt.
- Whisk sauce until just bubbling, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until sauce has become a bit thicker and viscous, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in cheddar a bit at a time (in about 3 batches) stirring each batch until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Add pasta and reserved onions and ham. Serve, topped with toasted breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.
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About Tara Teaspoon
I’ve been in the food publishing business for over 20 years, creating recipes & food-styling for magazines, books, television & advertising. Order my new cookbook & stick around for amazing things to eat.
An elevated take on one of my childhood faves!! And it came together soooo dang fast! Thanks, Tara 🙂