I never make just one of these. I always make at least three casseroles, bake one and freeze the other two. Whenever I hear that someone is under the weather or just needs a night off from cooking, I thaw one out and bring it over to them. Casseroles like this have been taking care of folks as far back as I can remember.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups small shell-shaped pasta
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups chopped cooked ham or chicken
1 recipe Cream of Chicken Soup (page 282) or 1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can (2.8 ounces) French fried onions, such as French's
1. Fill a medium stockpot with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.
2. Refill the pasta pot with water and bring it to a boil again over medium-high heat. Add the frozen vegetables and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the heat and drain them in a colander.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
4. Combine the pasta, vegetables, ham, soup, milk, pepper, garlic powder, salt, 1 cup of the cheese, and half of the fried onions in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
5. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 25 minutes, then top with the remaining cheese and onions and bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes more. Serve hot.