Budget Friendly Quick Cooker Ham + Cheese Pasta

I’m always on the lookout for a good meal that works well for monthly meal planning and lunches. When I scored a Pampered Chef Quick Cooker on FB Marketplace for $45 (yeah, you read that right!) I had never used any type of pressure cooker before (aside from canning as a kid). Luckily Pampered Chef comes with great manuals and videos, but of course I took to Pinterest to immediately begin researching recipes. I made a few ‘mac and cheese’ type recipes but they weren’t great. Not great flavor, not great blending for ingredients. I kept searching and stumbled upon this recipe from The Salty Marshmallow for Ham & Cheese Instant Pot Pasta.

Ummm, #nailedit.

I of course made some edits because I just can’t leave well-enough alone, but they were good edits, so below you’ll find my modified version of the linked recipe above. Also let me just tell you now, the price/serving on this is less than $0.70 per meal (cost breakdown is below)! 

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Budget friendly ham and cheese pasta made in the pampered chef quick cooker

Quick Cooker Ham + Cheese Pasta
Ingredients: 

  • 1 16-ounce box pasta (we like to use whatever; we’ve used both wagon wheels and rotini and both were great)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (bouillon cubes are way cheaper than boxed broth; I just use a 2-cup Pyrex cup and my hot water kettle to make it)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Franks or another hot sauce (if you don’t really like the flavor of hot sauce you could reduce this to a few shakes or cut it, and if you REALLY like hot sauce I would add up to 2 tbsp!)
  • Garlic powder, mustard powder (you can skip this or substitute another seasoning like onion powder if you don’t have it), salt, and pepper to taste (I go pretty heavy on the garlic powder and black pepper and just a few shakes of the salt and mustard powder)
  • 12-16 oz diced ham (I bought a ham steak at Aldi and chopped it into cubes)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (15 seconds in the microwave if you don’t take it out ahead of time)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 8 ounces shredded colby-jack cheese
  • ½ cup milk + more if needed 

Directions:

  1. Add the uncooked pasta, chicken broth, water, hot sauce, and seasonings to the Quick Cooker.
  2. Stir it. Try to get as much of the pasta covered by broth/water as you can.
  3. Put the lid on your Quick Cooker and ensure that the manual release button is level with the handle (otherwise you won’t get pressure). 
  4. Select ‘custom’, then select ‘time’ and use the down arrow to set the Quick Cooker to 5 minutes and press ‘start’.
  5. When the timer goes off (it takes longer than 5 minutes, in case you haven’t used a quick cooker before), hit ‘cancel’ and manually release the steam (push the button on the handle). 
  6. Carefully open the Quick Cooker. PROTIP: keep the lid over the cooker and tip it toward the cooker to catch the juice from the lid in the pot instead of on your counter.
  7. Stir in the cream cheese and sour cream until combined.
  8. Add the milk and the cheese. I stir quickly but if you don’t, you might want to add the cheese in two batches. 
  9. Add in the ham and evaluate your consistency. Sometimes it’s spot on and sometimes it needs more milk.  
Budget friendly ham and cheese pasta made in the pampered chef quick cooker makes 10 lunches for less than seventy cents per serving

I immediately spoon this into 10 glass Pyrex storage containers (we use both round and rectangle) for a week of lunches for two. The cost breakdown for this week of lunch prep is freaking great (and this list assumes you have salt, pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, and Frank’s or another hot sauce):

Cost/Meal Breakdown: 
Everything was bought at Aldi: 
$0.79 – 16 oz box of pasta
$0.15 – 2 chicken bouillon cubes ($1.89 for 25)
$3.50 – ham steak 
$0.40 – half a block of cream cheese
$0.15 – 4 tbsp (¼ cup) sour cream
$1.69 – 8 ounce block colby-jack cheese
$0.11 – ½ cup milk
Total: $6.79 
Total cost/meal for 10 meals: $0.68 (rounded up!)

Delicious, budget friendly ham and cheese pasta made in the quick cooker makes great lunches

You certainly aren’t going to grab lunch anywhere for less than $1, let alone lunch this delicious and filling 🙂 I have a feeling this will be in our monthly set of lunch meals for a looooong time. If you decide to give a go, let me know how you like it and if you make any changes of your own!

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