Here I have taken the comfort of baked pasta shells and stuffed them with flavorful Spanish chorizo and clams. Then combined this winning combination with a seafood laden San Fransisco classicâ€“ cioppino.
serves 4 generous portions
- ½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- 2 large shallots, roughly chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds trimmed off, cored and slices cross-wise
- 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, cut in ¼" dice
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to more taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3½ cup dry white vermouth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
- 3 cup clam juice
- 2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for baking dish
- 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water
- 1 pound dried pasta shells, big enough to stuff
- ½ red onion, cut into ¼â€ dice
- 4 ounce cured spanish chorizo, cut into ¼" dice
- 2 (6½ oz) cans of chopped clams, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup fresh (not toasted) breadcrumbs
- 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into ¼â€ dice
- ½ cup roughly chopped italian parsley
- ¼ cup fennel leaves, delicate fronds only, chopped
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 pound firm fleshed fish of your choosing cut into 1â€ chunks
- 12 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 12 small clams such as manila, well scrubbed
- 12 mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- ¼ roughly chopped basil leaves
Prepare the Sauce
Heat ¼-cup olive oil in a stockpot set over medium heat. Add garlic & shallots, sweat until softened. Add fennel, carrot & celery; cook an additional 3 minutes. Add thyme & oregano, along with red pepper. Season with salt & pepper.
Add tomato paste, stirring often. Once the paste cooks down, add 1-cup vermouth, de-glazing the pan. Raise heat to medium-high & continue to cook until the liquid thickens. Add an additional cup of vermouth & continue cooking; until the liquid is reduced by half. Add bay leaves, can of tomatoes with its liquid, 2 cups clam juice & the Worcestershire. Lower heat to a simmer & cover the pot. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.
Turn off heat & remove herb branches & bay leaves. Using an immersion blender puree the sauce. It should be slightly thick, but smooth & velvety. Bring to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
Prepare the Shells
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 2-quart casserole. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add 1 T salt & the pasta shells. Cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Stir the shells to prevent them from sticking together. Drain into a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
Heat 2 T olive oil in a medium-sized sautÃ© pan set over medium heat. Add the onions & cook a few moments. Add the chorizo & the clams stirring until well coated. Pour in ½-cup vermouth & continue to cook until the liquid is reduced & the pan is nearly dry. Season with a little salt & pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the breadcrumbs & clam juice, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes, ¼-cup parsley & fennel fronds, mix well.
Drizzle a light layer of the sauce over the bottom of a 9â€x13â€ baking dish. Working with one shell at a time, spoon 1 to 3 T of the chorizo mixture (depending on the size of your shells) into each shell setting them into the baking dish as you work. They should be touching, but not tightly packed. Once the dish is filled, drizzle additional sauce over the shells, be generous, but they should not be swimming in the sauce. Bake the shells until the sauce is bubbling & the exposed areas of shell are just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Set them aside, loosely covered.
Prepare the Cioppino
Add red wine vinegar to the remaining sauce and bring to a simmer. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with water. You want it brothy, but not watery. Use your judgment. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add the fish and shrimp to the pot of simmering base. Cover the pot.
Spoon several stuffed shells into each of 4 low soup bowls. In a large skillet with lid, heat the remaining 1-cup of vermouth set over medium heat. Add the clams & mussels. Cover & cook; shaking until the shellfish open, about 5 minutes. Discard unopened shellfish; divide the rest among the soup bowls. Strain the remaining liquid into the cioppino & raise the heat. Once small bubbles begin to appear on the edges of the pot turn the heat off, do not let the cioppino come to a boil. Ladle the cioppino over the shellfish & pasta shells making sure to include a variety of fish and shrimp. Garnish generously with remaining parsley, basil & a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.