Spicy Crab Dip Pasta Bake

published Apr 28, 2022
Spicy Crab Dip Pasta Bake Recipe
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spicy crab dip pasta bake in the pan
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

On its own, Maryland-style crab dip is a warm and gooey crowd-pleaser, studded with lump crabmeat and seasoned with salty, spicy Old Bay. Likewise, cheesy baked pasta is a guaranteed dinner winner, pairing a creamy base with sauce-hungry short pasta and a crunchy topping. Put them together and you’ve got this rich and flavorful casserole, perfect for cold-weather feasting or whenever you need a hearty serving of comfort food.

The secret to getting this spicy crab dip pasta bake just right is building flavor and texture at every step. To start, a trio of alliums — shallot, scallions, and garlic — is sautéed with a bit of fresh red chili pepper and Old Bay to lay the aromatic groundwork. A simple butter-flour roux takes shape next, right in the same skillet. The addition of milk and reserved pasta water creates a velvety sauce that gets an extra dose of creaminess from two different cheeses.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Turn off the heat and add in the lump crab, being careful to preserve the gorgeous texture! It’s at this point, off-heat, that you’ll also introduce the freshness of lemon zest and juice, to prevent the dairy-based sauce from curdling.

Transfer to a baking dish, and top it all off with a savory crunchy mix of butter crackers and grated Parmesan, before sending it into a hot oven to get bubbly and irresistible. If you can wait, let the final casserole rest for about five to 10 minutes after coming out of the oven so you don’t burn your tongue. Enjoy with extra wedges of lemon or hot sauce and be ready to dig in. 

Spicy Crab Dip Pasta Bake Recipe

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 8 ounces

    full-fat cream cheese

  • Oil or butter, for the baking dish

  • 2

    medium shallots

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 1/2 to 1

    medium Fresno chile

  • 5 to 6 cloves


  • 4 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons, or 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons store-bought)

  • 1 pound

    lump crab meat

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1 pound

    dried short pasta, such as cavatappi, rigatoni, medium shells, or elbow macaroni

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    Old Bay seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups

    whole milk

  • 10

    butter crackers, such as Ritz

  • For serving: lemon wedges and hot sauce


  1. Cut 8 ounces cream cheese into 8 pieces and let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Meanwhile, lightly coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with oil or butter. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Trim and finely chop 2 medium shallots (1/2 to 2/3 cup), 4 medium scallions (about 1/2 cup), and 1/2 to 1 medium Fresno chile (1 to 2 tablespoons). Mince 5 to 6 garlic cloves (about 2 tablespoons).

  3. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate 4 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons). Drain and pick through 1 pound lump crab meat for shells. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon), and juice the lemon (3 to 4 tablespoons).

  4. Add 1 pound dried pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than package directions for al dente. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

  5. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot mixture, 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. When melted, add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes.

  6. While stirring constantly, slowly add 3 cups whole milk about 1/4 cup at a time. Add about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and stir to combine. Simmer, stirring slowly and often, until noticeably thickened and clings to the back of a spoon, 4 to 6 minutes. (If your sauce gets a little too thick, you can pour in a little reserved pasta water to thin it out.)

  7. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cream cheese and whisk until melted and combined. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan and stir until completely melted. (Again, if your sauce gets a little too thick, you can pour in a little reserved pasta water to thin it out.) Remove the pan from the heat.

  8. Add the crab meat and gently fold into the sauce, being careful not to break apart the lumps too much. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta and gently stir to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer.

  9. Crush 10 butter crackers into a small bowl with your hands (or place in a ziptop bag and crush with a rolling pin) into small crumbs (about 1/2 cup). Add the remaining Parmesan cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir until combined. Evenly sprinkle over the pasta.

  10. Bake uncovered until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges and hot sauce.

Recipe Notes

Halving the recipe: This recipe halves well, serving 3 to 4. Bake in a slightly smaller pan, 7x11-inch or thereabouts.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.