Baked Pasta shells with Salmon

bakedpasta1

You can prepare this dish entirely in advance and bake just before serving. You can replace leeks with broccoli, after you boil it for 6 minutes. It’s an ideal dish for gatherings and can be easily transformed into a vegetarian main by omitting the salmon.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams large pasta shells
  • 2 salmon fillets (about 300 grams total), without skin, cut in approx. 3 cm cubes
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 leeks (about 400 grams), sliced
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • 50 grams cream cheese (I use «philadelphia»)
  • 100 grams grated mozarella cheese
  • 10-15 basil leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For baking:

  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Method

In a large saucepan, put the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, garlic and spring onion. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft. Season with salt and pepper, mix in the lemon juice and leave aside to cool.

In a large pot, bring to boil plenty of salted water. Add the pasta shells and cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions.

While pasta cook, prepare the white sauce. In a clean saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook stirring until its golden in colour. Add the milk and cream and whisk to blend, making sure there are no lumps. Add the mustard and stir to mix. Keep stirring over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly. Mix in cream cheese and take off the heat. Add the leeks and stir through.

Drain the pasta and put in a ceramic or glass baking pan. Mix in the leek and white sauce mixture. Add the basil leaves and grated mozzarella and mix again. Add the salmon pieces, distributing evenly in the pan and pushing into the pasta with the back of a spoon or your fingers. At this stage you can put the pasta in the fridge for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking.

In a small saucepan add 2 Tbs olive oil, over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook stirring until nicely toasted and golden in colour. Remove from heat and put in a bowl to cool.

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F). Mix toasted breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese and sprinkle all over the pasta. Bake for 30 minutes. If you bake longer you will overcook the salmon. Serve with a nice green salad.

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