My Seafood Gratin Pasta Bake is made with mixed seafood and macaroni, baked with a silky creamy sauce (made WITHOUT cream!) with a crunchy golden breadcrumb and parmesan cheese topping. Very easy, very French, very comforting. 🙂
I make this using a store bought seafood marinara mix – prawns/shrimp, mussels, fish and calamari. But you can use any seafood you want!
Creamy with no cream.
The editor of Super Food Ideas magazine calls it a Nagi Special. 🙂 Because I do so many creamy-no-cream recipes!
I make most of my creamy dishes and sauces without cream using a béchamel sauce using melted butter with flour (a roux) to thicken milk to create a creamy white sauce. Béchamel sauce is the mother of all French sauces and it’s the base for many creamy sauces that are made without (or with just a bit) of cream – such as Mornay, Cheese Sauce and Mustard Sauce.
While it might sound fancy, it’s so easy to make. And if you’ve ever made any of my recipes that start with melted butter + flour + milk (and there are many) then you can smugly sit knowing that you’ve made something using this classic French technique.
I don’t deliberately make recipes healthier using a béchamel sauce instead of cream. It is just that I don’t actually know that many recipes that are made with loads of cream because I was brought up on Japanese food, and cream is very rarely used in Japanese savoury cooking. But I know loads and loads of recipes made using béchamel sauce!
When you see those pictures of the silky creamy white sauce, it would be so easy to assume this Seafood Gratin is made with buckets of cream. But I swear, there is not a single drop of cream in it!
You will find hardcore seafood gratin recipes “out there” made with a homemade seafood broth. Actually, my brother made one for a family dinner the other week. Went and got seafood off cuts and simmered it for hours to make an incredible seafood broth which he used as the base for the béchamel sauce.
Mine is a midweek version. Easy enough to make tonight after work and in my personal humble opinion, it is still lovely enough for company. But just in case you want to go seriously all out, I’ve also added a note in the recipe for how to step this up to serious-restaurant-quality by making it with a homemade seafood broth. 🙂
PS I also make this using a store-bought seafood marinara mix. Because my local seafood shop does a great quality marinara mix. But you could easily put together your own mix using whatever seafood you want.
Gratins. Ultimate winter comfort food. Don’t you think? Well, along with creamy soups (try my No Chop Roasted Pumpkin Soup!) and hearty stews (Irish Beef and Guinness Stew!). 🙂
It makes me almost glad that it’s pouring with rain with blustering winds and dark dreary clouds outside today.
Almost. Not quite. I probably wouldn’t complain if I woke up tomorrow and it was summer! – Nagi x
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Creamy Seafood Pasta Bake
- 7 oz / 200 g macaroni or other pasta of choice
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil , separated
- 1 lb / 500 g mixed raw seafood (Marinara seafood mix) (Note 1)
- 2 leeks , white and pale green part only finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 tsp chicken stock powder) OR 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup panko
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (high recommended)
- Finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
- Cook pasta according to packet directions. Drain and pour into baking dish.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over very high heat. Add seafood and sear for 30 seconds, turn then sear the other side for 30 seconds (should still be raw inside). Remove into baking dish.
- Return pan to stove, add remaining 1/2 tbsp oil and turn down to medium. Cook leeks and garlic for 3 minutes or until soft. Add to baking dish.
- Mix pasta, seafood and leeks together in the baking dish.
- Melt butter in the skillet. Add flour and mix into the butter. Cook for 1 minute,
- Add 1 cup of milk and use a whisk to combine - it will thicken quickly. Add remaining milk and bouillon cube (crumbled) and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking occasionally at first then constantly as it thickens, for around 5 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (see photo in post). Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour into the baking dish. Top with panko and parmesan.
- Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the top is golden.
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh parsley if desired.
- I served this with garlic spinach (Note 2).
* Seafood broth - Place in large pot: 1.5kg/3lb fish heads & bones (no gills, not oily fish like salmon) + 1.5L/1.5qt water + 1/2 brown onion + 1 each chopped celery & carrot + 1 tsp black peppercorns + 1 bay leaf. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until reduced by about 2/3. Strain (squish out juice from fish and veggies) and use per above instructions (should end up with about 2 1/2 cups). 4. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.
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