When you serve this, your guests or family will truly think you ordered this from a 5 star restaurant. This can be used as the main meal, side dish, opening to a 7 course meal, something to impress those important guests or just a little something special for two. It has tons of flavor and creaminess and the sauce places this in one of my top ten inventions.
The crab for this dish can be from fresh king crab legs or if your budget is tight you can use a combination of canned and packaged crab meat and your guest will never know the difference. I came up with this idea when I had left over filling from making crab Rangoon and did not want to waste it or freeze it, so my culinary thinking cap went on and this perfect combination came to light and once you try this you will be so happy you did.
What You Will Need:
Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment – or Hand Mixer with Beater Blades
Large Pot (for cooking Pasta)
2 Wooden Spoon
Large Regular Spoon (to fill shells with filling)
Food Grade Gloves (highly recommended and a few pair)
Large Glass Pyrex Baking Dish or Deep Dish Metal Baking Pan
Small Cutting Board
1 Mixing Bowl
Non-stick Spray for Baking Dish
Palate Knife or Large Spoon (spreading first layer of sauce)
- 1 Recipe of my Seasoned Béchamel Sauce (Have made and waiting to be used.)
- ½ – 1 Cup 3 Grated Cheese Blend
- ½ Cup Water (place aside until ready to bake the dish)
- 12 -16oz Fresh Cooked Crab Meat Chopped
If using Real Crab from a Package add 1 can REAL lump crab meat plus 1 package crab meat – it will add extra flavor needed–Drain the can first)
Imitation can be used but be sure to add the 1 can of REAL lump crab meat. (Drain the can first)
- 2 8oz Cream Cheese Room Temp
- 4 Green Onions (diced with white ends and roots discarded)
- 2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Sea Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Crushed and Chopped Fresh Garlic
(Can be replaced with jarred chopped garlic found in the produce section)
- 1 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 2 ½ Cups Shredded Mozzarella
- 1 Box Large Pasta Shells
(Large Box should give you 24-30 shells depending on the type you purchase) (DO NOT USE Less expensive brands) They just do not have the quality.
Brands I suggest are – Barrila, De Cecco, or Ronzoni
Preheat Oven 325° F (163° C) Convection Oven 300° F (149° C)
This will make 22-26 Stuffed Shells Be sure to really stuff them with filling as shown.
This Dish can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days before baking, after baking-kept in refrigerator up to 4 days and froze after baking up to 2 months well sealed. Not recommended to freeze unbaked due to the cream cheese unless you use a culinary cream cheese then can be frozen unbaked up to 2 months well sealed.
Using mixer of choice place cream cheese in bowl and beat until smooth. If you used a stand mixer, use the rubber spatula and remove the creamed cream cheese from the mixer bowl and place in large mixing bowl.
Add to bowl, chopped green onions, Worcestershire Sauce, Sea Salt, Garlic Powder, Crushed and Chopped Fresh Garlic, Ricotta, Pepper and only 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella. Reserve the other ½ Cup. Mix well (do not use the mixer for this step) Use wooden spoon or a gloved hand. Once well combined add the chopped Crab meat and mix until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Cooking the Sea Shells
When cooking the pasta we are not wanting it cooked all the way through – it will finish in the oven so you want the shells to be firm yet workable when finished. NOT AL DENTE that is even to far cooked. Al Dente will be the final result after the baking process. You are only cooking the pasta until it is somewhat soft and you can open the shell without cracking it. The exterior will look and feel like it is cooked but the pasta itself holds its shape and is firm. See Pictures below.
Place water in large pasta pot or large sauce pot and bring water to RAPID boil as shown.
Once boiling place shells in slowly to not crack them and use wooden spoon to stir them around.
Continue to boil the noodles until they are workable and somewhat soft but be careful here. Over stirring can cause them to crack and under stirring can cause them to stick. Shell pasta likes to telescope itself with other shells so try to keep them separated. Water should be constantly boiling and you are stirring it on and off while separating if needed.
Pull one out, place on dish, back side of the cover or cutting board and see if it is ready, I use gloves here since it is hot to touch and if not ready needs to go back in the pot to finish. DO NOT WALK AWAY while this is boiling – it can over flow and also get overcooked rather quickly. See how they telescope each other?
Testing your pasta, should be easy to open, yet firm to touch and outside looks done.
When the shells are ready, pour into strainer in sink and start to run cold water over the shells to stop the cooking process. Use the sprayer wand or fill the pot up with cold water and place them in it and drain again. A Hard stream of water will break your shells so be careful here. Gently toss the shells in the cold running water. BE SURE THEY ARE RINSED WELL AND COLD! Let drain in strainer when done. Do not be alarmed if some of the shells did break on you there is always a few that will do this.
Putting It All Together:
Prepare your pan while the shells are draining. Spray the bottom and sides of baking dish with non-stick spray also take your crab filling out of the refrigerator
Take a couple spoons of your Seasoned Béchamel Sauce and place a nice thin layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Using palate knife or back of spoon spread it out as seen below.
Set up your work space, have your filling, shells and baking dish next to each other on your work surface. Grab one shell in one gloved hand and open slightly with your thumb as seen below.
With a pasta spoon or larger table spoon take some of the filling and place it in the shell using your thumb to slide it off the spoon and into the opening of the shell. Keep filling the shell until it is FULL and the filling is keeping it slightly open.
Do not skimp out here in the filling!! Fill it up since you want a nice even blend of filling, sauce, pasta and cheese in the finished dish.
Place the filled shell in the baking dish and continue to fill as many shells as you can with the amount of filling made. You will probably have a few shells left over at the end. Do not waste them since they can be used for a nice side dish like; baked parsley butter with garlic and broccoli stuffed shells.
Once the pan is full, take the ½ cup water and pour into pan NOT over stuffed shells – pour it into the open gaps between the shells and around the outside edge of the pan.
Take your Seasoned Béchamel Sauce and pour evenly over the top of each shell or use a spoon to ladle over each.
Take the 3 Grated Cheese Blend and sprinkle over the top as shown
Take the last ½ cup of reserved shredded mozzarella and sprinkle evenly over the top.
Cover tightly with Foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. After the 20-25 minutes remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until very lightly golden and the cheese is just bubbling.
If doing a delayed bake; Take out of refrigerator and place in preheated oven covered with foil for 40 minutes then uncover and place back in oven for 10-15 minutes.
If baking from frozen, preheat oven, bake covered 45 minutes and uncovered for 20-25 minutes.
The Perfect Pair up to this recipe as a dessert would be my Cinnamon Rum Apple Honey Biscuit
I came up with this recipe after watching a few recipes from my dear friend Gretchen Price http://www.woodlandbakeryblog.com/ It is my twist using a few of her recipes 🙂