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Cheese and Shrimp Pasta Bake

8 servings
Cazuela de Pasta con Queso


  • 3 fresh Anaheim chiles
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 pounds ripe on the vine tomatoes, washed and quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste, divided, plus more to season shrimp
  • 1 6- ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried chiltepín chiles, chile de árbol, or red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound short and small pasta, such as rigatoni or shells
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Mexican crema
  • 1 cup grated asadero or quesadilla cheese, can also substitute with Monterey Jack or Muenster
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Oaxaca cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated añejo cheese or parmesan
  • 3 to 4 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

To Prepare

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Place the Anaheim chiles on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Put under the broiler for about 10 minutes, flipping a couple times in between, until charred on all sides. Immediately transfer the charred chiles to a plastic bag and seal tightly to sweat them for at least 5 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag, let cool slightly, then peel off the skin and remove the stems and seeds. Coarsely chop the chiles and set aside.
  • Heat an oven-proof heavy bottomed skillet or casserole over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and heat until the oil is rippling. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until it is translucent and starts to brown at the edges.
  • While the onion is cooking, add the tomatoes to a blender. Pulse in the blender until the tomatoes are crushed but are still a little chunky. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Add the garlic and chopped Anaheim chiles to the pan with the onion, stir, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for another couple minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Add the tomato paste, stir it into the vegetables, and let it cook and season for another minute. Pour in the crushed tomatoes from the blender and stir making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to scrape up any browned bits. Season with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the crushed dried chiles. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened and is flavorful. Turn off the heat when ready.
  • Set a rack on the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Melt the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When melted, sizzling, and hot, add the shrimp in a couple batches and season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute a couple minutes until the shrimp are just cooked. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl or plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Chop half of the shrimp, leaving half whole to top the pasta.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce along with the chopped shrimp and the crema and toss to coat. Top with the remaining whole shrimp and cover with the grated asadero, Oaxaca, and añejo cheeses. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Sprinkle the top with scallions.