If you are fortunate enough to be travelling through Oregon, USA, and you enter a small town south-west of Portland named McMinnville, you will see a small cafe along the main street called "Nic's". We originally read about Nic's Italian Café in Saveur magazine, same place we picked up this recipe. It was said to be the very recipe used at Nic's.
We lived on the west coast at the time and had an abundance of available crab at our disposal, and we made the recipe many times. And it was delicious each and every time. But . . . a year ago we had the good fortune to travel to Oregon, and to book a hotel right next door to Nic's and enjoyed a few days working over his menu.
Like many restaurant recipes we've come across in our travels and our "food road trips", this one is exceptional. But it you do come across Nic's in McMinnville, Oregon, in your travels,if you are fortunate enough to have the time to sit and have Nic's version of this recipe, do yourself a favor. You certainly won't regret it . . .
For the Béchamel
and the Filling
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 tbsp. butter
1⁄4 cup sifted flour
4 cups milk, hot
Grated zest of 2 lemons
9-12 oz. dungeness crab meat
1⁄4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1⁄4 cup freshly grated pecorino-romano
1⁄2 lb. button mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup ricotta
3⁄4 cup pine nuts
For the béchamel: Preheat oven to 375°. Put garlic and oil in center of a medium piece of foil, fold foil into a packet, then roast in oven until garlic is soft, about 45 minutes. Mash garlic to a paste and set aside. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring for 1 1⁄2 minutes. Whisk in hot milk and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is as thick as heavy cream, 30–35 minutes. Add garlic paste, lemon zest, and salt to taste. Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
We use oven ready pasta . . .
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with butter. Line bottom of dish with a layer of pasta, trimming sheets so that they fit in 1 even layer (patch if necessary) Scatter crab over pasta, spread 1⁄3 of the béchamel on top, then sprinkle with half the grated cheeses. Cover with another layer of pasta, scatter mushrooms on top, add dollops of ricotta, and spread half the remaining béchamel on top. Cover with another layer of pasta, spread the remaining béchamel on top, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheeses, and scatter pine nuts on top. Bake until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.