Baked Shells With Broccoli and Ham (Surprise Healthy Sauce!)

Baked Shells with Broccoli and Ham by Sweet Pea

One of the pleasures of receiving many magazines is finding new recipes to try.  I recently was paging through an old Martha Stewart and a recipe from the “Fit to Eat” column caught my eye.  Baked Shells and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy-Creamy Cauliflower Sauce sounded too good not to try.  As I often do, I changed the recipe ingredients and directions just a bit.

This recipe comes together fairly quickly and I found that prepping all of the ingredients before I started cooking was one key to the recipe’s success.  A head of cauliflower must be finely chopped along with two shallots and several cloves of garlic; broccoli must be cut into florets; and 2 cups of Parmesan must be grated.

Baked Shell Ingredients


The cauliflower, shallots, and garlic are sautéed in 1 tsp. of EVOO  along with 1/4 tsp. of salt until very tender.  4 tsp. of flour are stirred in and then 4 cups of skim milk is slowly added.  After the sauce thickens, 1 cup of Parmesan is added to the sauce.  At this point I did not think the sauce had enough salt, so I added more to taste.

Steps to Make Cauliflower Sauce


While the preparing the cauliflower sauce, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook 2 more minutes.  Drain, put the mixture back in the pot and stir in the ham.  After the ham is mixed in, stir in the cauliflower sauce and pour into a casserole dish.

Baked Shell Mixture


Top the casserole with the remaining cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup Panko.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Casserole Before and After Baking

The cauliflower cream sauce tastes indulgent but isn’t since it’s made with skim milk and a small amount of cheese.  The salty ham pairs nicely with the pasta and broccoli.

This is going to be a dinner that we enjoy several nights this week.

Dinner is Served


Baked Shells With Broccoli and Ham (Surprise Healthy Sauce!)

Baked Shells With Broccoli and Ham (Surprise Healthy Sauce!)

A creamy cauliflower sauce is the surprise ingredient in this yummy baked pasta.


  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups finely grated parmesan
  • 1 bunch broccoli (3 clumps), trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup Panko


  • Heat oil over medium heat. Add cauliflower, shallots, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt; cook until softened but not brown, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with flour; stir to coat well.
  • Gradually stir in milk and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; gently simmer until sauce thickens. Add 1 cup of Parmesan.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 5 minutes, add broccoli and cook two minutes more. Drain and return to pot.
  • Mix ham with pasta and broccoli and stir in cauliflower sauce. Transfer to a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup parmesan and panko.
  • Bake 30 minutes.


    Baked Shells with Broccoli and Ham

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    1. This looks wonderful and I’m going to try this soonest! I just moved back to the USA from overseas and everyone mentions Evoo. What exactly is it? Oil?

    2. I made this tonight and I’m sure it was user error, but it tasted really gritty. Your recipe says to cook cauliflower until very tender – any idea how long that usually is? I cooked it for quite a while but the texture never changed so I eventually continued on with the rest of the recipe. I am wondering if that was the issue. I love the idea of this recipe and really wanted it to work. Any tips/suggestions would be awesome! Thanks!

      1. I hate that the recipe didn’t work for you. I cut the cauliflower into very tiny pieces and it was tender after about 10 minutes of cooking. The cauliflower continued to cook as the skim milk was added to make the sauce. Martha’s original recipe said to put the sauce in the food processor to smooth it out. The cauliflower in my sauce was so tender that I didn’t find this necessary. I am very puzzled that yours wouldn’t get tender and was gritty. I’m sorry that it didn’t work!

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