What dish, to you, defines “comfort food”? My pick: healthy Ham and Cheese Casserole with Apples and Sage.

Healthy Ham and Cheese Casserole with Apples and SageWell that’s not entirely true—my actual answer is a hybrid between my Grammy’s homemade ham macaroni and cheese and my Grandma’s “party ham casserole.” The first is categorically cheesy; the second smothered in crispy, buttery breadcrumbs; both involve chunks of salty ham and unapologetic levels of heavy cream.

Healthy Ham and Cheese Noodle Casserole. A lightened up version of ham and cheese casserole studded with fresh apples and sage.
Healthy Ham and Cheese Casserole with Apples and Sage

Healthy Ham and Cheese Casserole with ApplesMy grandmothers’ versions of ham and cheese casseroles are exactly the sort of dishes you want to curl up with on a chilly evening, when the sun sets too early, the wind blows too strong, and you realize that a comforting pasta bake and a pair of sweatpants might be the secret combination to a lifetime happiness.

Healthy Cheddar Ham and Apple Casserole with the best healthy cream sauce and sageToday’s recipe for Ham Apple Cheddar Pasta Bake is my grown-up version of these favorites. To complement and elevate the ham and cheddar, I added sweet apples, sautéed onions, and earthy sage. I kept the irresistible crunchy breadcrumb topping (mandatory) but ditched the cream of mushroom soup.

Healthy Ham Cheese and Apple CasseroleI’m giddy about the magic that happens between the sage, apples, and cheddar, but my favorite part about this dish is the white sauce. Over the years I’ve been on a quest to develop a recipe for a healthier creamy white sauce that a) thickens in a reasonable amount of time and b) doesn’t taste healthy.

Many sub-par pasta nights later, this is it: the healthier white sauce of my dreams. A touch of butter and half-and-half are needed, but the rest of the thickness comes from Greek yogurt and a handful of freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese. I was so excited, I almost took a bath in it. Just kidding. Kind of.

Healthy Cheddar Ham and Apple Casserole with the best healthy cream sauce

While I still indulge in my grandmothers’ original recipes every now and then, today’s comforting Ham and Cheese Casserole with Apples and Sage is a modern version that any family can feel good about enjoying on a regular basis. It’s reasonably healthy, contains a fabulous array of fall flavors, and makes fantastic leftovers too.

Healthy Cheesy Ham and Apple Casserole with Sage

Ham Apple Cheddar Pasta Bake: Doing my grandmothers proud one comfort food casserole at a time!

Healthy ham and cheese casserole in a baking dish

Healthy Ham and Cheese Casserole with Apples and Sage

4.86 from 7 votes
A healthy version of a baked ham and cheese pasta casserole with apples and sage that is just as comforting as the original. Your entire family will love this dish, and it makes great leftovers too!

Prep: 10 mins
Total: 55 mins

Servings: 1 9x13-inch dish


For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound whole wheat penne
  • 12 ounces diced ham (I used thickly sliced Virginia ham from our deli)
  • 3 medium sweet apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used Gala)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves thinly sliced, dived

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups non-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese

For the Bread Crumb Topping:


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly grease a 9x13 or similar baking dish.
  • Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or similar large, deep pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and garlic, then cook whisking often, until the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually pour in milk, whisking constantly, then the half and half. Continue to cook until the sauce simmers and thickens, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the salt and nutmeg, then the Greek yogurt, cheddar, and 1/2 the total amount of sage. Add the drained pasta, apples and ham, toss gently to coat, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  • Combine the bread crumbs and olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Cover the dish with foil, then bake for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and bake 10 additional minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the pasta is hot and bubbly. If necessary, turn your broiler to high to finishing browning the crumbs, watching them carefully so that they do not burn. Remove baked pasta from the oven, sprinkle with remaining sage, and serve.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. LOVE the idea of yogurt in the sauce!! I can’t wait to try this one Erin – I have tons of cubed leftover ham in my freezer that I was wondering what to do with, so this will definitely be on the menu next week and I’m already looking forward to it!

  2. I’m sorry did you just use healthy and casserole in the same sentence?! We are trying to do a healthier Thanksgiving this year and thought I was going to have to nix any casseroles (tear) but I’m thinking we don’t have to do that anymore! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mmmmmm, ham and cheese anything is comfort food for me. My dad used to make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for us whenever mom was busy at dinner time. Love the yogurt trick to make the sauce a little bit healthier!

  4. This looks like the ultimate comfort dish!!! I actually keep thinking about it after I saw it last week – soo delish!!! Gorgeous photos too :)

  5. This cheesy goodness needs to make its way to my plate. I’m loving all the fall flavors happening in this recipe. Pinned.

  6. How many servings does this make and do you have any idea what the calorie count per serving is? Sorry if I overlooked it

    1. Hi Fiona! Regarding nutritional info, this is something that I’ve actually started adding to all of my new recipes, effective January 2016 (you’ll see it in the recipe box at the bottom). Unfortunately, it’s pretty time consuming, so I’m unable to go back and add it to past recipes. If you’d like the nutritional info for any of my older recipes (or really any other recipe or food), you can actually calculate it yourself for free at myfitnesspal.com (this is how I calculate the new recipes on my blog). I’m sorry I can’t give you the information for this exact recipe, but I hope that My Fitness Pal will be a helpful resource for you. In terms of how many this serves, I would say 6, depending upon how hungry everyone is :)

  7. I make this casserole all the time. I just love it. That combo of sage, nutmeg, and ham is divine.5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Rebecca! Thank you for sharing this kind review! You can reheat this in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.

  8. Love this recipe, have made it a few times. Coming back to it now though, I’m left wondering about “3 teaspoons garlic”. Is that Garlic powder? Minced garlic? Typically garlic is given in units of cloves and the reader does the conversion.4 stars

    1. Hi Aaron! Thank you so much for letting me know, I’ve corrected it in the recipe card. This is minced garlic. So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

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