While on a business trip, my dad caught an episode of Rachael Ray where she made this and asked me to make it when he got home, we liked it so much we've eaten it several times since. With a little advanced chopping and cooking you can easily make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge a few days before baking and eating. Rachael uses Sage Derby cheese, an English cheese marbled with sage, I couldn't find it locally so I used sharp cheddar and made use of our sage plant (the only one strong enough to survive winter), to provide the sage flavor.
I hope this version of mac and cheese makes an appearance on your dinner table soon, enjoy!
Recipe from Rachael Ray http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/derby-sage-mac-and-cheese-with-ham-recipe.html
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
1 pound cavatappi hollow pasta curls or penne rigate or macaroni with lines
4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, finely chopped (you can omit if using the Sage Derby cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
12 ounces crumbled Sage Derby (green-veined sage-scented Cheddar, instead I used Sharp Cheddar)
12 ounces baked or boiled ham, 1/4-inch thick sliced, and chopped
One 10- to 12-ounce package frozen chopped organic spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Step 2: Cook Pasta
Heat a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta just shy of al dente, 5 to 6 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.
Step 3: Prepare Sauce
Sprinkle in the flour, whisk for 1 minute until lightly browned. Then whisk in the milk, season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper and thicken the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
Melt in the Sage Derby cheese, then add the ham. Separate the spinach as you stir it into sauce as well.
Step 4: Bake and Enjoy
Bake until brown and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes, if it was made-ahead it will take more like 35 to 45 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!