Better with Butter

To-Die-For Recipe: Brennan’s Pasta Ellen

Cook like the pros.

By Catherine Matusow March 1, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The scene of an illegal amount of deliciousness

My mom’s been making Pasta Ellen from the Brennan’s of Houston cookbook In Your Kitchen for years, and it’s my favorite thing to eat at the beach. The recipe calls for crab, but we usually make it with fresh Gulf shrimp. Apparently, at one time Brennan’s served the dish as a lagniappe, but customers—including Ellen Tipton, the restaurant’s onetime director of sales and marketing—started requesting full portions, so they named it after her and started offering it as an entrée.

The good folks at Brennan’s were kind enough to share the recipe with Gastronaut readers. Serve it with green salad, crusty bread and crisp white wine for the perfect meal. It tastes best with an ocean view.

Pasta Ellen

Yield: 4 servings

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup button mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked
  • 1 and 1/2 cups lemon beurre blanc, divided (see below)
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onion, divided
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, cleaned and picked over (or do what my mom does and substitute 1 pound Gulf shrimp, or 1/2 pound of each)
  • 2 teaspoons Creole Seafood Seasoning (my mom uses Tony’s)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; sauté until mushrooms are softened. Add pasta, 3/4 cup Lemon Beurre Blanc, tomato and 1/2 cup green onion. Stir ingredients to combine and warm through. Season with salt and pepper; keep warm.  

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat; add crab, taking care not to break up the crabmeat, and sauté. Add Creole seasoning and remaining 3/4 Lemon Beurre Blanc; cook until heated through. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and remaining green onions.

Lemon Beurre Blanc

Yield: 1 1/4 cup

  • 1 lemon, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon whipping cream
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Warm water as needed
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Combine lemon, shallots and wine in a heavy-bottomed, small saucepan. Cook over medium heat to reduce liquid until it starts to become syrupy and thick. Add cream and heat. Whisk in butter one piece at a time, whisking after each addition. If mixture begins to look too thick, add a few drops of warm water.  

When all the butter is incorporated, remove sauce from heat and strain. Season with salt and pepper; always keep warm.


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