Leek and Ham Cheesy Pasta based on Leek and Macaroni Gratin – Dairy Book of Home Cookery

My edition of The Dairy Book of Home Cookery was published in 1983! I’m pretty sure it was a present when I went off to university you used to be able to buy the book from your milkman! A slightly curious present for a student as the original title was ‘The Dairy Book of Family Cookery’ and it is exactly what it says on the title, but I guess there weren’t any student cookbooks back then. When we left university we used to use this cookbook a lot as it was the main one we had.

We now make this recipe from memory and always add cubed ham offcuts. It was only looking back at the recipe for this blog entry that I realised the original recipe didn’t include ham and specified macaroni for the pasta. I’ve put my version below with approximate quantities. This freezes very well and is a popular dish with my husband’s aunt and uncle (I try and regularly make up some homecooked dinners for their freezer as his aunt can’t easily cook any more).

Quantities below make 8 generous servings ie. one family meal and the same amount again to freeze.


  • 500g pasta shapes of your choice (shells work well)
  • 3 leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • olive oil
  • 150 – 200g ham offcuts/ham hock
  • 200g grated cheese
  • 3/4 litre milk
  • 100g butter
  • 100g flour


  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water until it is al dente (approximately 10 minutes), drain and place in large bowl
  2. Slice leeks and clean (if they are very dirty they may need soaking in water for at least 1/2 hr), saute in olive oil until starting to soften then add to bowl.
  3. Cut up ham into pieces approx 1cm square and add to bowl (this time i used shredded ham hock)
  4. Melt butter, add flour, stir to form roux and cook for 5 mins. Add milk gradually and continue to heat and stir as sauce thickens. When sauce is desired consistency* take off heat and add most of the cheese. Pour sauce onto pasta, leeks and ham.
  5. Mix contents of bowl and place in casserole
  6. Top with remaining cheese and place in preheated oven (180C) for 30 minutes

* The cheese sauce can be thinner than you’d make for cauliflower cheese as the pasta absorbs some of the liquid from the sauce whereas of course cooked cauliflower tends to ‘leak’ water into the sauce.


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