Food Network Magazine (April 2010)
We frequently start our posts off talking about a particular ingredient, or what drew us to a certain food magazine recipe, or why we wanted to try a given dish.
But today, if you'll forgive us, we're going to skip the smalltalk.
You. Need. To. Make. This. Dish.
And you need to make it tonight.
We sat up and took notice when we saw this recipe in the April Food Network Magazine. A baked shells and cheese casserole with spinach and zucchini? How could we not make this?
This recipe has a lot of distinct steps -- grating and draining the zucchini, making the roux, boiling the pasta, then baking everything together -- but it's really not that time-consuming (especially if you use a food processor to grate the zucchini).
The final result is heavenly. The pasta is creamy and rich, with a great sharp salty flavor from the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses. The zucchini and the spinach are terrific -- making this dish a whole lot more than just mac-'n'-cheese. Baking it gives the top of the pasta a mouth-watering golden-brown crust.
If we had one tweak to make here, we'd suggest adding more baby spinach after you bake this in the oven. It just makes it that much fresher and more spring-like. Just toss in a little more spinach as you plate the pasta.
Really, though, this dish is absolutely fantastic.
Like, out of this world fantastic.
Like, have-two-helpings-at-dinner-and-STILL-wind-up-eating-straight-out-of-the-casserole-dish-while-standing-over-the-sink fantastic.
Other posts you might enjoy:
1 hr 15 min
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
• 2 pounds medium zucchini
• Kosher salt
• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 6 cups whole milk
• 4 sprigs fresh thyme
• 3 bay leaves
• Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
• 1 pound medium pasta shells
• 4 shallots, minced
• 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
• 4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
• 4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
• 4 ounces baby spinach
Grate the zucchini into a colander using the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1 tablespoon salt, then place in the sink to drain, about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste and mix with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste puffs slightly, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, then add the thyme, bay leaves and lemon zest and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 25 minutes. Strain into a bowl; discard the herbs.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini mixture to the pasta along with the egg yolks and all but 3 tablespoons of both cheeses; stir to combine, then add the spinach.
Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the reserved cheeses. Bake until browned on top and heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.