Spring Shells and Cheese

Total Time:
1 hr 30 min
Prep:
15 min
Cook:
1 hr 15 min

Yield:
6 to 8 servings
Level:
Easy

Ingredients
  • 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
Directions
  • 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.

  • Photograph by Con Poulos


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