1 box dried penne or similar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 to 2 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water, according to package directions. When pasta has finished cooking to al dente, strain it and set it aside, reserving a cup of the starchy pasta water.
- While pasta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp. butter on high in heavy-bottomed, high-sided pan; add ham and cook, stirring, until lightly browned.
- Add onions to pan and lower heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes; then add red peppers. Continue to cook until onions and peppers are soft; then add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Add remaining 3 Tbsp. butter to pan; when butter has melted, add flour, stirring, until flour is fully saturated and there are no lumps of flour remaining (if necessary, add a little bit more butter).
- Add milk to pan slowly, stirring as you go, and allow it to cook another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, portion pasta into 6 plates or bowls. Cover with sauce, and finish with grated Parmesan cheese.