Monday, November 22, 2010
The first try was a bit ordinary but I liked the idea. I spiffed up the filling flavors with some good smoky bacon and sundried tomatoes and changed the sauce from a marinara type to a sharp asiago cheese sauce. Voilà!
I baked the shells in individual gratin dishes, but you could just as easily do this in one large baking dish.
This makes 18 shells. I put three in each casserole, but we had started the meal with soup, and everyone agreed that with a salad, two would be enough for most people. One was enough for me.
The stuffed shells, without the sauce, could be make ahead and frozen on a baking sheet. Placed in freezer bags, you would have the makings for a quick meal on short notice.
This exact same recipe would be wonderful with either crab meat (use the lump, not the more expensive jumbo lump) or cooked salmon.
CONCHIGLIE AL TONNO
18 large pasta shells
For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, chopped
2 strips good smoky bacon, cut into 1/4" strips
2 7-ounce cans tuna in olive oil, lightly drained
1 cup fresh bread crumbs from firm white or baguette bread
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sundried tomato, diced (See notes)
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups half-and-half (See notes)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
12 ounces sharp asiago cheese or imported fontina, grated
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sundried tomato, diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, slivered
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and the bacon is cooked (the bacon will not be crisp or browned). Let cool completely.
Place the bread crumbs in a food processor. Add the tuna and the onion mixture. Pulse several times to just combine. Scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in the egg, sundried tomato and parsley.
Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook over low heat for about three minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by about a third. Add the half-and-half. In a large bowl, toss the grated cheese with the flour to cover. Add to the sauce and heat, stirring constantly until the cheese is melted. Do not let the sauce boil.
Cook the shells according to package directions, using the lowest cooking time given. Drain and carefully spread on paper towels. Fill each one with a heaping tablespoon of the filling.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the shells into well-buttered individual oven-proof dishes, or one shallow baking dish, with the seam side up. They should fit snugly. Pour the sauce over the top, being sure to cover all the edges of the shells. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the top is just starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the sundried tomato and basil garnish and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
NOTES: (1) I used sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil. If you use the dehydrated kind, soak them in hot water for an hour or so before using. (2) You could substitute whole milk for the half-and-half but the sauce might curdle a bit in the cooking. That won't hurt it at all.