Spring Pasta with Brie, Ham, and Peas

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Photo credit for this and those below to Matt Riley – UVa Sports photographer, via Facebook

Who doesn’t love spring? Flowers blooming, weather warming up, and March Madness! Ally loves March Madness every year, but this year was extra special. She, along with all the rest of the Cavalier faithful, had incredibly high hopes for redemption for this year’s team. And they DID IT! Monday night, way past our bedtime, the Virginia Cavaliers won the NCAA men’s basketball title game!

Since Ally made/ate this pasta on game night, we definitely have to document it, so she can superstitiously eat it for years to come. I’ve had the idea of making a light sauce with melted Brie floating around in my head for awhile now and am pleased how this turned out. It’s simple enough for a weeknight (or while nervously pacing, waiting for a championship game to start…) and light enough to welcome spring, despite what you might assume from the ingredients. It’s also a great use for leftover ham! By thinning out the Brie, you end up just lightly coating the pasta, so it doesn’t eat like a heavy Mac n cheese or something similar.

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Spring Pasta with Brie, Ham, & Peas

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • 8oz ham, chopped (leftover or otherwise already cooked)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (dry) bowtie pasta
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4oz Brie cheese, rind removed
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 2 large basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Heat oil in a large pan over low-medium heat. (If you have some fatty pieces of ham, you may be able to skip this step.) Toss the ham and minced garlic into the pan and cook until ham is warmed and garlic is fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook pasta per instructions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Remove ham to the side for the moment. Whisk the Brie and chicken stock together; lower heat if needed. Allow these two ingredients to come together over the low heat for the next approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the peas at this time as well.
  4. Return the ham to the pan, along with the pasta. Toss together to coat the pasta with the Brie sauce. Top with pepper and salt as needed.
  5. Serve, topped with fresh chopped basil.
Dinner for two!

Ham and Potato Soup

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For all of you who celebrate Easter with a massive ham and therefore, invariably have leftovers – here’s a recipe for you! This soup is flavorful, and stuffed full of ham. No guilt about wasting leftovers! On a related note, save or steal the ham bone! We’ll use that too. It’s not necessary to the recipe, but man does it make it better! The depth of flavor you get out of that ham bone is amazing.

I also got to wondering… how did ham become a traditional Easter food? The Jews-turned-Christians of ancient times certainly weren’t serving up pork on their dinner tables. Seems counter-intuitive that the descendants of religious Jews would go for one of the most forbidden foods in Judaism. As best I can tell, Easter ham is a relatively recent, American Christian tradition. Why? Apparently, back in the days before refrigeration, pigs were traditionally slaughtered in the fall and stored salted through the winter. This ham was edible around Easter-time, when other spring-slaughtered animals weren’t ready. Pretty practical and boring as traditions go…

Now if you’re observant or actually reading this the day I published it, you’ll notice that Easter isn’t exactly over yet. That’s because we were unable to go home for Easter with my family as usual and instead staffed the hospital. But we did buy a massive ham this week. It was only $1/lb! That’s basically free 💸💸 And let me tell you, if our think you have leftovers, try eating a whole ham between two people! So far we’ve had two friends over for ham & swiss sandwiches, repeated those sandwiches another night, had eggs and ham for breakfast, made this soup, frozen ~1/3 of it, and still have a good other 1/3 or so in the fridge! We’ll be eating ham until Memorial Day! With this soup, I was going for creamy, but a little different than the usual heavy-cream-filled potato soup. I think it worked! 💁

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Ham & Potato Soup

Ingredients: 
  • 2 qt vegetable stock
  • Ham bone (if you have access to one)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 10oz leftover ham, chopped
  • 3 large yellow potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. If you have a ham bone, place it it a larger pot and cover with the 2 quarts of vegetable stock. Add the two bay leaves and a few sprigs of rosemary. Bring to a simmer and then turn heat down to low. [If you don’t have a ham bone, skip this step and just add the stock later as instructed.]
  2. Leave on the stove for an hour or as long as you have time for! The longer you leave it, the more flavor you’ll get out of the bone. If you have plenty of time and are getting tons of flavor out of your bone, you can top off with some water to keep it going.
  3. Allow the stock to cool. Skim off any fat and debris. You can also strain through cheesecloth if you like.
  4. In a large stockpot, heat your oil. Once hot, add shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Once they have started browning and are fragrant, add the ham, potatoes, stock, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.
  6. Raise heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Then turn down to medium-low heat. Cook at this temperature for ~30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
  7. Remove roughly half of the potatoes to the side. Using an immersion blender (or pour into a food processor), blend together those potatoes and the milk.
  8. Return the milk/potatoes to the soup pot. Stir in to combine well. Leave at medium-low heat for another 10+ minutes.
  9. Serve with whatever toppings you’d like! (Cheese, chives, bacon, hot sauce, whatever!)