Some years ago I started using leeks and have never looked back since. Brion & I have never tired of that subtle flavor. When a recipe calls for leeks, it usually indicates to use the white and light green parts only and to either discard the ‘tough dark green tops’ or save them for another use.
So what are these ‘other uses’? Usually it refers to using the green tops as add-ins for soups or stock, only to be removed once they have imparted their wonderful layer of flavor and discarded.
When you think about it, we cook up all kinds of vegetables that are ‘tough’ to start out with yet end up nice and tender when cooked or braised. I find, using the dark green tops presents no issues, just cook them a bit longer than the tender leaves.
On the other hand, you can braise the dark green tops with some butter/olive oil, chicken or veg stock, minced garlic, dried chili flakes, salt & pepper & some lemon juice and make a great side dish to serve with fish or pasta etc.
Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms
Pasta & Filling
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells & cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions. Drain pasta
In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute chopped bacon until cooked. Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Add leeks, garlic & mushrooms to bacon drippings. Sauté until leeks are soft; season with salt & pepper. Add salmon, gently combine & set aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter & olive oil. Once melted, add garlic then sauté until light golden brown, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour; whisk & sauté for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a wooden spoon & stir constantly until mixture is thick & bubbly, 4-5 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat & stir in mozzarella cheese, garlic powder & parsley flakes until smooth. Taste then adjust salt & pepper if necessary.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Add breadcrumbs & cook, stirring until toasted & golden in color. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; combine with parmesan cheese.
Assembly & Baking
In a 13 X 9-inch baking dish, spread a small amount of garlic sauce over the bottom. To filling mixture, add reserved bacon & enough garlic sauce to help the filling stick together.
Divide filling between the 16 cooked pasta shells & place in baking dish. Top with any remaining garlic sauce then sprinkle topping over all.
Bake for about 30 minutes making sure not to overcook the salmon. Serve.
Pasta is without a doubt, one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with. It can be prepared in so many unique ways with different sauces. Pesto sauce is one of those … a simple sauce with simple ingredients that packs a huge flavor.
Pesto sauce originated in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound or to crush. It was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the translation may be a bit misleading because preparation does not consist of pounding, rather it is of grounding.
Traditionally, pesto is made of crushed garlic, fresh basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. There are many variations of pesto and while the most popular is a pasta sauce, it can be used for a spread or dip, salad dressing or as an accompaniment to steak, poultry or fish. Red pesto is either made from sundried tomatoes or red bell peppers.
This pasta meal comes together easily in a short space of time. Sometimes its the simplest dishes that are truly the best!
Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Mozzarella & Meat Sauce
In a saucepan over low heat, saute onion in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Add ground pork, 2 Tbsp water, pepper, sage, red pepper flakes & ginger. Cook, stirring until no longer pink.
Add salt, dried basil & diced tomatoes; bring to a boil then lower heat & simmer for 20 minutes. Stir periodically. At the end of cooking time, stir in pesto & remove from heat.
While sauce is simmering, cook pasta shells al dente. It is important not to overcook shells as they will be further cooked in the oven. Drain pasta, add cooked sauce & gently toss.
Place half of the pasta in a baking dish & sprinkle with half of mozzarella & Parmesan. Top it up with remaining pasta & sprinkle with other half of the cheeses.
Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is golden & pasta is hot & bubbly.
- Don't hesitate to bake your pasta in individual servings.
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.