This is no ordinary pasta bake - it's a super-luxe version generously flecked with sweet chunks of lobster meat. The jumbo-sized shell-shaped pasta is the perfect shape to hold the fennel-laced creamy sauce. A little crème fraîche added to the mix adds a subtle tang, while a crunchy crumb topping spiked with lemon rind is all the texture you need.
- 1 live lobster (about 1.5kg)
- 400 gm dried jumbo pasta shells
- 50 gm butter, diced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 150 ml dry white wine
- 40 gm plain flour
- 1 litre (4 cups) hot milk
- 200 gm crème fraîche
- 100 gm parmesan, finely grated
- Juice and finely grated rind of ½ lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 60 gm coarse sourdough breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Finely chopped chives, to serve
- 1Place lobster in freezer to render it insensible (40 minutes), then kill it humanely (see note). Cook lobster in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until bright in colour (7-8 minutes). Refresh in iced water then drain.
- 2Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until not quite al dente (6-8 minutes). Drain, reserving 2 tbsp cooking water, and return both to pan.
- 3Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion, fennel and garlic, and sauté until translucent (4-5 minutes). Deglaze pan with wine and simmer to reduce completely (1-2 minutes). Stir in flour, then, stirring continuously, gradually add milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer, stir continuously until thickened (2-3 minutes), then stir in crème fraîche and parmesan and season to taste.
- 4Twist lobster head and body in opposite directions to separate (do this over a bowl to catch the juices). Cut down through the tail, remove meat and coarsely chop. Stir lobster and reserved juices into sauce, along with lemon juice and cayenne pepper, then add to pasta, stir to combine, then transfer to a 2.5-litre baking dish.
- 5Combine breadcrumbs, oil and lemon rind in a bowl, season to taste, then scatter crumbs over pasta and bake until the filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown (25-30 minutes). Scatter with fennel fronds and chives, and serve hot with lemon wedges.
RSPCA Australia's recommendations for killing crustaceans humanely are to first render the animals insensible by placing them in the freezer (under 4C - signs of insensibility are when the tail or outer mouth parts can be moved without resistance); crustaceans must then be killed quickly by cutting through the centreline of the head and thorax with a knife. This splitting and spiking destroys the nerve centres of the animal.
Drink Suggestion: Blanc de blancs Champagne. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.