If Pulled Pork and Mac & Cheese had a love child . . .
Who says that stuffed shells have to be Italian or that pulled pork is just for sliders? This recipe combines the heavenly cheese sauce of a classic Mac & Cheese with the sweet and smokey goodness of pulled pork. Whether you make your own pulled pork or buy it from your favorite BBQ joint, this recipe is ideal to make with leftovers because it stretches a small amount of pulled pork into a full meal for 6-8. If you're a family of 4, well, you just made more leftovers! After one bite of this dish, you'll see what a good thing that is! Fair warning: those leftovers won't last long at all.
Equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; large saucepan or stockpot; colander or strainer; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; box grater or food processor; wooden spoon or whisk; casserole or baking pan
12 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 cups pulled pork
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1½ cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
1½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided ¼ cup BBQ sauce, optional
2 scallions, thinly sliced on bias
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Cook the shells according to the instructions on the box for al dente, or for baking. Rinse with cold water to cool and prevent them from sticking together. Drain well.
“When making a baked pasta casserole in a sauce, the process further cooks the pasta. So, undercooking the pasta a touch in the prep means that the pasta will not be soggy and overdone in the baking dish. Plus, it saves you time ... a win!”
3. Fill each shell with approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of pulled pork and set aside.
4. To make the cheese sauce, warm the milk in a small saucepan and set aside.
“Use whole milk and be sure to warm it before you make the roux. Why? What’s the difference? A smooth and evenly thick sauce versus a gritty and lumpy mess. Adding whole milk, which has the right amount of fat to facilitate the thickening of the sauce with the roux, directly from the fridge to the pan will yield the latter. As a general rule, do not add cold liquids to hot pans in the cooking process. That's the ILOC way ... technique, not torture!”
5. Next, make the roux (cooked butter and flour). Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over low heat. Stir in the flour, mustard, and Worcestershire. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, at least one minute.
6. Remove the pan from the heat for a moment and slowly pour in the warmed milk, stirring constantly. Return to the heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil, continuing to stir constantly to create a smooth, lump-free sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the salt/pepper/nutmeg, and continue to stir the mixture until thickened to the point of generously coating the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
7. Stir in 1¼ cups of each cheese until melted and well incorporated.
8. Ladle 2 cups of sauce into a casserole dish. Gently place the stuffed shells on top of the cheese sauce in a single layer. Top with the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of each cheese.
9. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Drizzle lightly with BBQ sauce, if desired, and sprinkle with sliced scallions.
Makes 8 servings.