New England Pasta Bake
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- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 yellow onion, cut into medium dice
- 1 stalk celery, cut into medium dice
- 2 carrots, cut into medium dice
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons, about 6 sprigs, fresh thyme leaves, minced (1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 3 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams and their juice, divided
- 1 pound of pasta shells
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat broiler. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil.
Place a large skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender but not caramelized, 5-6 minutes. Add the potatoes, thyme, juice of the clams and 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and bring the liquids up to a bubble. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 8-10 minutes.
While the veggies are simmering, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook to al dente according to package directions. Just before the pasta is ready, reserve a large mug of starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan it was cooked in.
While the veggies and pasta are cooking, place a medium saucepot over medium heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook for 1 minute. Whisk the milk and 1 cup of starchy cooking water into the roux and bring up to a bubble. Add the clams to the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Reserve warm.
When everything is ready, toss the cooked veggies and prepared sauce with the cooked pasta and transfer to a large casserole dish.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and grated cheese over the surface of the casserole and brown under the broiler.