Recipe: Smoked trout, sun-dried tomato and leek pasta bake

This is probably not the kindest thing to do to smoked trout, but Andrew is very anti-fish, so if I want to cook fishy things, I have to disguise them a bit.   And it was lovely – the smokey trout sort of permeated everything without being overwhelming, and the bechamel sauce was lovely with white wine and gruyère.  If you can’t get sun-dried tomatoes that really taste like tomato, I’d skip them and use fresh cherry tomatoes instead – the kind you buy in jars at the supermarket would not go with the trout at all, and it deserves kinder treatment.

Your shopping list

2-3 small leeks
75 g butter
2/3 cup white wine
50 g flour
2 cups milk
salt, pepper, nutmeg
75 g gruyère cheese, grated finely
175 g piece of smoked ocean trout (tail piece is good, because it has no bones)
8 really good sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes, or a punnet of cherry tomatoes
200 g green or yellow beans (I think – sorry, forgot to measure these, but two good handfuls), topped and tailed and halved if they are long.
300g penne rigate

Now what will you do with it?

Wash the leeks, halve them, then slice them finely.  Melt 25g of butter in a small-medium saucepan (big enough for your béchamel later on), and cook the leeks gently.  When they start to soften, add 1/3 cup of white wine, and continue cooking gently until all the wine is absorbed.  Scrape the leeks out into a large casserole dish.

Flake the trout into the casserole dish with the leeks, and add the green bean.  Slice the dried tomatoes (or halve cherry tomatoes, if using), and add to the casserole dish.

Put the water on to boil in a large suacepan for pasta.  Meanwhile, heat the rest of your butter in the saucepan you used for the leeks, and add the flour, stirring to cook a little.  Add the milk gradually, whisking like mad, and keep whisking until it starts to boil and thicken.  Along the way, add the nutmeg and seasonings (I have a lovely grinder that has salt, pepper, chilli and fennel – this worked beautifully here). Add the white wine, and keep stirring until thick.  Remove from the heat and add about half the gruyère.

By this time, your pasta should be ready to go in – cook until al dente, and add to the casserole.  Mix everything together, and pour in the bèchamel, continuing to mix as you do.  Sprinkle the rest of the gruyère over the top, and bake for about half an hour at 180°C (I didn’t bother pre-heating the oven), or until the top is a little browned and everything is heated through.  The beans will still be a bit crunchy, but who’s complaining?

Serves four hungry people.


For a dairy free or gluten free version of this, use one of the béchamel recipes here (this is also a good reference if you are having trouble with your béchamel in general).  I would probably use a light-flavoured flour (like rice flour) rather than chestnut or quinoa, for fear of overwhelming the fish.  And gluten free pasta, of course.  You could top the bake with a sprinkling of pine nuts to keep it dairy free.

A vegetarian version of this would obviously not contained smoked trout, and I hardly know where to start, to be honest!  This recipe is basically a variant of my standard ‘what’s in the fridge’ dinner – cheesy pasta bake with tuna and vegetables, or just vegetables, or leftover antipasti, or leftover roast vegetables, or any combination of the above.  I don’t think you really need a recipe from me to make this.  It might be interesting to make this with smoked tofu, which is a bit ham-like in flavour and would probably get on well with the other flavours in this recipe.  But I’m not sure that smoked tofu + soy-milk-based sauce would be a particularly winning combination overall, so I probably would stick to legumes rather than tofu for my protein if I wanted to make this vegan

Experiment to your heart’s content – I’m pretty sure there is no way to make any dish that starts with pasta and béchamel taste bad…

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