Verenike casserole makes you feel like a ham

In a little less than a month, I’ll be heading off to one of my favorite places on Earth: Camp Mennoscah.

I love it for many reasons—the beauty, the people, the connection with God through nature—but one thing I always look forward to is the food.

While my co-director and I get to run around with a bunch of 8 year olds, there will be a group of wonderful volunteers in the kitchen, churning out tons of delicious meals for us to enjoy each day.

While the camp menu varies from week to week, there are a few staples that always seem to make it onto the list that I can’t get enough of.

One of those is verenike casserole.

If you’re not familiar, verenike is a dough pocket with cheese inside that is traditionally served with ham gravy. It’s an indulgence I adore, but it’s time consuming to make. Verenike casserole takes all the flavors of verenike and simplifies them into an amazing noodle dish.

The recipe I used comes from the cookbook “50 Years of Good Cooking and Camping at Camp Mennoscah,” which was edited by Nancy Becker. The recipe, which is called “Fettucini Casserole” in the book and was penned by Ruth Entz, is colloquially called “Verenike Casserole” by campers and camp staff. I’m leaving out the 1/4 cup of chopped onion.

* * *

Verenike Casserole

Ingredients

8 ounces fettuccine noodles, cooked according to package

2 cups cubed ham

1-1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup sour cream

12 ounces dry curd cottage cheese

Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a 9-by-13-inch pan, combine the noodles, ham, 1-1/4 cups milk, sour cream and cottage cheese and some salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture begins to bubble. Add the 2 cups of milk slowly while continuing to stir. Bring the mixture up to a slow boil and then reduce heat back to medium to let the mixture thicken a little. You want it to coat the back of a spoon. If it’s too thick, add a touch more milk. If it’s too thin, add a touch more flour.

Pour the sauce over the mixture in the baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

* * *

If you can’t find dry curd cottage cheese, I buy normal cottage cheese and then rinse and drain it extremely well before adding it to my mixture.

Every time I make this, it’s always much better the day after, because the sauce really thickens up into something amazing, but it’s delicious straight out of the oven, too.

At camp, my favorite way to eat this is paired with some green beans and fresh bread. At home, I just load up a bowl and dig in.

There’s nothing better than food made with love, and after many trips out to Camp Mennoscah, I have never had a meal that didn’t contain a whole lot of love from volunteer cooks. I’m sure my trip in July will be no different.

Lindsey Young is managing editor of The Clarion, the Kansas Publishing Ventures newspaper in Andale. She can be reached at lindseyclarion@gmail.com.