The combination is just sumptuous, like a cross between a mac’n’cheese and a bisque from Nigella Lawson. The sauce is rich, but delicate too. Smoked paprika and a mix of white and brown crab meat create an almost honeyed depth to the velvety cheese sauce.

Serves 2


  • 100 grams Gruyere cheese
  • 15g or 2 x 15ml tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 15g or 1½ x 15ml tablespoons plain flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or hot smoked paprika, plus more to sprinkle at the end
  • 250 ml full fat milk
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon tomato puree
  • 30g or 2 x 15ml tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 fat clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 200 grams conchiglie rigate pasta
  • 100 grams mixed white and brown crab meat (50/50)
Grate the Gruyère into a bowl and add the 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Mix the flour with the spices in a small cup. Pour the milk into a measuring jug and stir in the tablespoon of tomato purée. Put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
Find a smallish heavy-based saucepan; over lowish heat, melt the butter, then peel and mince or grate in the garlic and stir it around in the pan quickly. Turn the heat up to medium and add the flour and spices. Whisk over the heat until it all coheres into an orange, fragrant, loose paste; this will take about a minute. When it looks like tangerine-tinted foaming honeycomb, take it off the heat and very gradually whisk in the tomatoey milk, until it’s completely smooth. 

Put back on the heat, turn up to medium and cook, stirring, until it has thickened and lost any taste of flouriness; this will take anything from 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the grated cheeses. Put a lid on the saucepan, or cover tightly with foil, and leave on the hob, but with the heat off, while you get on with the pasta. If you have an electric or ceramic hob it may be better to take the pan off completely.

Add salt to the boiling water in the pasta pan, then add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions, though start checking it a couple of minutes earlier.

When the pasta is just about al dente, add the crabmeat to the smoky cheese sauce, then once you’re happy that the pasta shells are ready, drain them, reserving some pasta-cooking liquid first, and drop the shells into the sauce. Stir over lowish heat until the crabmeat is hot. If you want to make the sauce any more fluid, as indeed you might, add as much of the pasta-cooking water as you need. Taste to see if you want to add salt.
Divide between two small shallow bowls and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper or hot smoked paprika.

A note on other uses for the sauce...

If you increase the milk in the sauce to 300ml, it makes for sensational seafood nachos: warm tortilla chips in the oven, then pour the sauce over them, and top with sliced red chillies and chopped chives or whatever you please.


Recipe from Nigella Lawson.

Tags: CRAB Crabs