It’s been a stormy weekend: new fridge (the old one died unexpectedly); thunderstorms; moments of intense malaise. But we now have freshly chilled, freshly purchased cold staples, and our fridge is clean as a whistle with no half empty jars of anything (all was thrown away; all was grody-to-the-max). I’ve been in the mood for some shellfish lasagna, or cannelloni, or something like that. There was this nice Italian place, on Newbury Street, on the haute couture block closest to the Boston Public Garden, a few years back, and they had this delightful tri-sauced seafood lasagna; I’ve been dreaming about it lately. And I can’t find anything like it on any other menus in town (at least, those available online). So I decided to make some myself. Sweet shellfish and ricotta stuffing wrapped in pasta sheets and baked with bechamel, alfredo, pesto, and tomato sauces.
I only need a few tablespoons of pesto, so I start with about 1 cup of basil leaves, three or so cloves of garlic, and about 1/4 cup of pine nuts.
I blend all those beautiful flavors with some EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and lemon juice, until it’s a nice, thick paste. Cover, and chill in the new fridge.
I want some toothsome texture in my dish to complement the sweet soft sinews of my shellfish, so I finely dice some carrot and celery (about 1 cup each), and toss them into a bowl.
To which I add: 1 cup chopped parsley, 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano–Reggiano, some sea salt, cracked black pepper, and fresh grated nutmeg.
Blend all ingredients together well.
My scallops. I slice each crosswise into three dics.
My shrimp. These were called “sweet royal”, and they were royally sweet.
And, just for good measure, a can of crab meat. I add each of these shellfish to my ricotta mixture, and blend well.
Meanwhile, whip up a quick Parmigiano–Reggiano bechamel: two tablespoons butter, a tablespoon flour, 1/2 cup cheese, 1 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper.
Melt the butter, and add the flour.
Blend well, until frothy.
Add your cheese and your cream, some salt, pepper, garlic, and nutmeg, and blend well until melted and thickened.
I’ve boiled off four sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles to soften them, and then I’ve filled them – lengthwise – with my shellfish filling, and wrapped them like burritos into some monkey-dishes already coated with my fresh bechamel: two per dish.
I’ve then spooned the remainder of my filling mixture over the top (most of my scallop slices ended up dotting the surface), and wrapped each dish in foil. I set them inside a 350° oven for 30 minutes. In another small saucepan, I make a quick alfredo sauce (butter, cream, and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese, sea salt, pepper, and more nutmeg). I also have some fresh tomato sauce nearby. I remove the foil from my dishes, then one third of each in tomato sauce, the opposing third of each in 1/2 of my alfredo sauce, and then I add my few tablespoons of pesto to the remaining alfredo – return to the heat and stir for a moment to incorporate – before covering the middle third of each dish with its green goodness. I return to the oven for an additional ten minutes, uncovered.
My Italian-flag colored shellfish cannelloni is served with a quick salad and some garlic toast, and is searingly hot, garlicky, and full-flavored. Clayton chooses to eat white to red; I eat one cannelloni at a time, mixing all the sauces together, blending the cream with the green with the red. The diced carrots and celery are crunchy bits of vegetable joy amid the curds and crab and cream and stuff. A warm, light, rich dinner: perfect for capping off the weekend!