6 strips bacon OR 6 oz. baby clams OR 1-2 cups leftover cooked meat OR meat replacer
8 oz. uncooked pasta (shells or noodles)
3 tbs. oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups milk, dairy or alternative
2/3 cup grated cheese
1 package frozen mixed vegetables
If using bacon, cut into 1” lengths and cook until crisp. Drain. If using meat substitute, thaw and cube or crumble. If using leftover meat, shred or cube. If using clams, drain.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve. In a small skillet, place 3 Tbsp. oil. Sauté onion until limp, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant. Sprinkle flour over top of onions and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk. Cook over low heat until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
In a large casserole, mix all ingredients together, reserving 2 Tbsp. grated cheese. Sprinkle cheese over top. Bake, covered, at 350º for about 20 minutes.