Pasta shells, filled with a range of flavors and baked in a creamy sauce — what’s not to like? I think my love affair with stuffed pasta shells started somewhere in the 90’s. The versatility of this meal makes it king of the comfort food dinners served family style. Easy to prepare, makes everyone happy and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.
Another bonus, is that this meal can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The concern with reheating pasta is always that the pasta will absorb any additional sauce or liquids as it is sitting in the fridge. In order to make this meal ahead of time, cook pasta and stuff shells but keep the sauce in a separate container. When ready to serve, microwave sauce just until its liquified, pour over pasta shells and bake until hot and bubbly.
Unbaked shells can be frozen for up to one month. To bake from the freezer, first thaw in the refrigerator, then let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer until bubbly.
The hickory smoked bacon in these pasta shells adds such a unique flavor to the turkey filling.
Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells
In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour & cook until lightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Add mustard & cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Set aside.
Pasta & Filling
Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a few drops of oil added for 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again. Grate Gouda cheese. In a saucepan, fry bacon to a soft crisp stage, blot on paper towel & chop.
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, onion, garlic, Parmesan, soy sauce, basil, thyme, 1/2 of chopped bacon, salt & pepper. Add a small amount of prepared sauce (to help to hold filling together).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a 9-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Divide turkey filling between shells. Place filled shells, single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with remaining bacon. Sprinkle smoked Gouda cheese evenly over top. Cover & bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is cooked.
Whether you call it quiche, tart, galette, pizza or pie, these uncomplicated dishes remain some of the most universally appealing. Depending on the setting and time of day, such open face preparations can serve as a first course or an ideal main luncheon dish. Versatility makes them picnic fare as well as late evening snacks.
Spinach is a green that Brion longer enjoys to eat so I have sometimes used Swiss chard in its place. This particular galette uses a nice flour/cornmeal pastry. The chard and Gruyere make an excellent pairing. I love the vast complexity of Gruyere with its fruity tones slowly going towards earthy and nutty flavors. Covered by a natural rind, the texture is dense then matures to flaky and somewhat granular as it ages. No silage ever enters the diet of the cows providing the milk for it. Instead, these Swiss alpine cows, are allowed to roam freely on pastures cushioned between freshwater streams and hillsides. This natural forage is key to imparting the signature flavors of Gruyere.
Today’s galette can be just a meatless version or you can add chicken, bacon, pine-nuts, corn, mushrooms or whatever you prefer. It all works!
Chard, Chicken & Gruyere Galette
Cornmeal Galette Dough
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles Both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough. Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour & continue to cook, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Add chicken broth & mustard. Continue to simmer, whisking until thick & bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside to cool slightly.
In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked; remove from pan; set aside. Remove stems from chard leaves; chop to equal 1 cup. Chop leaves to equal 4 cups. Heat bacon drippings in skillet over med-high heat. Reduce heat & add chard stems, mushrooms, garlic & onion to pan; saute 5 minutes. Add chard leaves to pan; saute until chard is wilted & no moisture remains, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme, parsley, pepper, bacon & shredded chicken. Remove from heat & cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove pastry from refrigerator. On a 12 X 16-inch sheet of parchment paper, press out pastry into two rectangles about 9 X 14-inches ( you can make one big one if you prefer). Carefully spread mustard sauce over surface of dough, leaving an inch border all the way around pastry. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; make a layer of cooked, thinly sliced potato then evenly top with filling mixture. Sprinkle divided Gruyere between both galettes & fold edges of dough inward over filling. Brush egg wash over exposed crust.
Bake until crust has browned & cheese has melted, about 25-30 minutes. Slide the galettes off the parchment onto a cooling rack or cutting board. Slice & serve.