Pasta filled with a delicate shrimp mousse and arranged on the bed of a thick homemade tomato sauce then baked to perfection. That’s the Shrimp Stuffed Baked Pasta!
Hello everyone. Happy Monday, if that’s allowed to say. I don’t mind Mondays (most of the times) though, especially when I am about to share a delicious recipe. That’s the case today. This Shrimp Stuffed Baked Pasta is something I am very proud of.
This recipe was developed and
tastes at the beginning of January. In fact, that was Andrey’s birthday. We
normally eat out when it comes to my birthdays, but I usually make a
celebration dinner for him. Thus, that’s one of those rare situations when I carefully
listed to his suggestions and desires. He isn’t extremely picky, though. Sometimes
it’s a fancy salad, sometimes a pasta dish. This time he desired some pasta. Shrimp
pasta, specifically. We offered him a couple of my suggestions, and surprisingly
he opted for a baked version even though he doesn’t care a lot for baked pasta
(But he likes stuffed baked pasta).
However, the task was rather
complicated. Andrey specified that he would like a very simple flavour profile
where the shrimp flavour would be dominating. Why was it hard? Shrimp isn’t the
most flavourful food. Indeed, it has a very subtle and delicate flavour which can
be easily either overpowered or bland.
Challenge was accepted! After some
consideration, I decided to make a shrimp mousse with cream cheese and some
herbs and lemon. Please note that you don’t need to buy expensive shrimp or prawn;
frozen cocktail shrimp would be a perfect choice! Also, while it’s not
mandatory, I’d recommend getting some larger shrimp, mostly for the decoration
purpose (And the texture, too!)
For the sauce, I decided to make
some easy yet delicious tomato sauce. It’s always a good thick to balance out
the rich and creamy part in the pasta.
Lastly, although Italians believe
that seafood and cheeses don’t go together, I used a little touch of parmesan. Pasta
without cheese isn’t just good enough for me.
The result? Delicious, rich, and soft pasta with a delicate yet well-pronounced shrimp flavour. That’s the meal I would suggest you for a special occasion. Like Valentine’s Day which is rapidly approaching!
I hope you try this Shrimp Stuffed Balked Pasta, and I hope it won’t disappoint you.
*Always cook more shells than is required. First of all, they’re all different sizes and you might have more filling than pasta. Secondly, while cooking, some of them might crack.
**This shrimp would be used for decoration. You can avoid this part and use them all for making the filling.
***Dividing and adding the shrimp at different times, would give the better texture. Half of them would resemble a silky paste while another would give some chunky pieces.
2 lb. shrimp (frozen is fine, defrosted) – I would recommend 1/2 of small cocktail shrimp and 1/2 of large shrimp with tails, but you can use only cocktail
1,5 cups plain cream cheese
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
A good pinch of salt
A good pinch of white pepper
The Tomato Sauce:
1 cup 10% cream
1 can (800 gr.) crushed tomatoes
½ cup plain cream cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
At least 18 extra large pasta shells (dried) – recommended about 24*
1/3 cup grated parmesan, optional
For the filling, reserve around 18 shrimp** (Preferably large, but cocktail would work too).
Divide the remaining shrimp into two parts***. Place one part in a blender or food processor and process until very nice and smooth (like paste), about 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 of the shrimp along with the salt, white pepper, thyme, and lemon zest. Pulse just until well-combined, about 15-20 seconds.
Try and season more if needed. Set aside.
To make the tomato sauce, in a pan combine the tomatoes with cream and let simmer and thicken for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese, parmesan, and thyme and let it simmer for an additional few minutes until incorporated. Set aside.
Cook the pasta until al denta (or better even 1-2 minutes less) as recommended on the package. Always trust your feelings – sometimes they underestimate the cooking time; the cooked pasta shells should be firm yet basically cooked. Rinse under cold water and dry out.
Preheat oven to about 180 degrees C (360 degrees F).
Take one large or two medium baking dishes. Spread a generous amount (about 2/3) of the tomato sauce on the bottom.
Using a small spoon, stuff the shells with the filling. If you reserved some shrimp for garnishing, insert them in the middle of the filling. Arrange the stuffed pasta on the tomato sauce. Spoon out the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the parmesan, if using.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10- 15 minutes before serving.