Clams Casino Stuffed Pasta Shells is a twist on one of my favorite appetizers – casino clams. Bacon, clams, peppers, cream and cheese are stuffed into a pasta shell for a truly extraordinary dinner.
Clams Casino Stuffed Pasta Clams – Friday Night View
As I remember here many times before, my family and I would go out to eat every Friday night, after my parents closed the store. They both work long hours, and really look forward to this weekly reward. As much as we love Mom’s cooking, my sister and I always look forward to our nights out, and while we don’t always go to “fancy” places, when we do, we often share a plate of clam chowder.
I grew up eating steamed clams at the annual Fireman’s Carnival, which I absolutely loved, but there’s something special about enjoying those same clams topped with crispy, bacon-y, buttery, breadcrumbs. I can’t get enough of them, and it’s one of my favorite childhood flavor memories. So, when I decided to turn it into a stuffed pasta shell, I really hoped that the very familiar flavors would still shine through, which they did, and more than I expected. Clam casino aside, if you’re a fan of clam chowder, linguini and white clam sauce, and/or bacon and clam pizza, I’m sure you’ll love this, which is why I really hope you give this a try right away. Enjoy!
. 3 cups small cubes of French bread or crumbled
. 8 ounces bacon, cut ½ inch
. 1 cup diced onion
. 1 cup diced pepper
. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
. 2 cans (6.5-ounce) chopped clams, drained, juice reserved
. 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
. 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
. 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
. a pinch of cayenne
. 2 tablespoons of butter
. 2 tablespoons of flour
. 2 3/4 cups milk
. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
. a pinch of cayenne
. 20 jumbo pasta shells
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Spread the bread cubes in the prepared pan, and bake in the oven until they are completely dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, crispy, and all the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, push the crispy bacon to one side of the pan, and drain off most of the rendered fat.
Turn the heat back on to medium-high and add the diced onions and peppers. Cook until they begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved clam juice, and cook, stirring, until half the liquid has reduced, 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a bowl with the bread cubes. Pour in the reserved clams and toss to combine. Add ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour until the mixture turns a light brown color, about 2 minutes. Add cold milk all at once, and beat until smooth. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce begins to boil, 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce will not be too thick, but will thicken when baked with the skin.
Remove the sauce from the heat, and transfer 3/4 of it to a 9×12-inch baking dish. Save the rest for the top.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta shells in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until about 75% tender, about 9 minutes (full cooking time is 12 minutes). Drain and cover with enough cold water to cover to prevent the shells from drying out.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Stuff 20 clams with plenty of the clam bread mixture, and place on top of the sauce, making 5 rows of 4 clams. Top with remaining white sauce and sprinkle with remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake in the preheated oven until the pasta is completely tender, the sauce is bubbling around the edges, and the cheese on top is beginning to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Top with additional chopped parsley if desired, and serve immediately.