In recent decades, Seafood Bastilla has become an increasingly popular special occasion dish to serve at Moroccan weddings, family celebrations, banquets, holidays and company dinners. To make this impressive savory Moroccan pie, shrimp, calamari and fish are tossed with a zesty Chinese vermicelli filling and wrapped within Moroccan pastry sheets called warqa. Once baked, the combination of crispy, paper-thin pastry and flavorful seafood stuffing is a true delight.
Seafood bastilla can be shaped into multi-serving pies of any size, including very large bastilla for up to 12 persons; or they can be made into single-serving size, perfect for offering as a special treat during Ramadan or as a starter before another main dish.
Although making seafood bastilla is a bit time-consuming, each step is easy enough for a novice cook. I find the task of cleaning and prepping the seafood to be much more tedious and challenging. You can eliminate much of that work by having a fishmonger do the cleaning for you. Even then, be sure to pick through the shrimp and calamari to remove any stray shell or unwanted bits.
Once assembled, the bastilla can be frozen or refrigerated for later baking, making it a perfect do-ahead dish.
Moroccan Seafood Bastilla Recipe
- 2 lbs. fresh medium shrimp, shelled, cleaned and tails removed
- 1 lb. fresh calamari, cleaned; cut into rings or strips and tentacles coarsely chopped
- 1 lb. swordfish or other firm fish, cut into filet or steak
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- salt and pepper
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and grated
- 3 large cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 to 7 oz. Chinese vermicelli (bean thread or rice vermicelli)
- 1 large handful dry black mushrooms (wood ear mushrooms)
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
- tomato sauce (recipe above)
- reserved liquids from cooking the seafood
- 1 lb. warqa pastry sheets,
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1 cup grated cheese (Edam, Mild Cheddar, Gouda, etc.)
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)
- cooked shrimp in the shell (optional)
- parsley sprigs (optional)
Make the Tomato Sauce
- In a small saucepan or pot, combine the grated tomato, garlic, parsley, oil and salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low to medium heat until a thick sauce forms, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the hot sauce and soy sauce. Set aside.
Cook the Seafood and Fish - Reserve All Cooking Liquids
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the shrimp. Season the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and saute for 1 or 2 minutes, just until the shrimp is white and cooked through. Drain and reserve the liquids and set the shrimp aside.
- In the same skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the swordfish steak. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook, turning several times, until the fish is cooked and flakes easily. Drain and reserve the liquids. Break the fish off the bone into bite-size pieces, discarding any skin, and set aside.
- In a skillet with a lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the calamari and season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cover and braise the calamari in the butter and its own juices for 30 minutes or longer, until the calamari is very tender. Add a tiny bit of water during cooking only if the liquids evaporate before the squid is cooked.When the calamari is cooked, drain and reserve the liquids and set the calamari aside.
Prepare the Mushrooms and Chinese Vermicelli - Start While the Calamari is Cooking
- Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of cold water for 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
- At the same time, soak the Chinese vermicelli in a large bowl of cold water for about 15 to 20 minutes, until tender enough to cut but not fully plumped. Drain and chop into 2" to 3" strands.
- Transfer the chopped rice vermicelli to the pot with the tomato sauce. Add the reserved liquids from cooking the fish and seafood and stir to combine. (I find tongs the easiest to use for this.)
- Simmer gently over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the vermicelli is tender and most of the liquids have been absorbed. Remove from the heat.
Combine the Filling
- Transfer the Chinese vermicelli to a very large bowl. Add the shrimp, calamari, fish and chopped mushrooms. Stir gently to combine.
- Taste for seasoning. The filling should be quite flavorful and zesty, a bit salty and spicy to the tongue. Adjust seasoning with additional soy sauce and/or hot sauce as desired. Note that some versions of seafood bastilla have a lot of heat due to hearty additions of hot sauce. Use your own palate as your guide.
Assemble the Seafood Bastilla
- Working on parchment paper or aluminum foil allows for easy transfer of the bastilla once it's assembled. Overlap sheets of parchment paper or foil to create a large work surface of about 17"x 17".
- Brush the paper or foil with melted butter and then a little vegetable oil. Overlap sheets of warqa pastry, shiny side down, to fully cover this area. Allow the pastry sheets to drape well beyond the edge of your work area.
- Brush the pastry leaves with melted butter and add a single 12" round layer of warqa, shiny side down, to the center. Brush it with melted butter. This center circle serves as your guide and base for the bastilla.
- Place the seafood filling on the circular base, packing and shaping the filling to fit the 12" round. Drizzle melted butter over the filling then top with the grated cheese.
- Gather the excess pastry up and around the filling, enclosing as much of it as you can. Try to maintain a nice circular shape with smooth sides. Trim excess folds of dough that create unwanted bulk. Brush the folded pastry with butter.
- Fully enclose the filling by arranging several more overlapping pastry leaves, shiny side up, over the top of the pie . Allow the edges of the pastry sheets to drape over the sides then tuck them carefully under the pie to finish shaping the bastilla.
- Brush the top and side of the bastilla generously with melted butter then with the egg yolk. (I use my hands for this step.)
- The bastilla is now ready for baking. Proceed to the next step, or wrap the bastilla in plastic (along with the parchment paper or foil base) and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 2 or 3 months.
Bake and Serve the Bastilla
- Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C).
- Place the bastilla (still on its parchment paper or foil base) on a large baking sheet or pan. A flat sheet allows for easiest transfer; you can line it with foil and crimp up the edges to catch any drippings.)
- Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and crispy; about 35 to 45 minutes. Allow additional time if placing a frozen bastilla directly in the oven.
- Remove from the oven and if garnishing with cheese, sprinkle it over the hot bastilla. If your cheese doesn't have a low melting point, return the bastilla to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
- Carefully transfer the bastilla to a large serving platter. Garnish as desired with shrimp, lemon slices and parsley. Serve immediately.
- You may find warqa sold as feuilles de brick (or brik) in a local grocery store or Middle Eastern market. If not, buy frozen filo (phyllo) dough, preferably country-style or rustic style, which is a thicker sheet than normal filo. Use two sheets of filo for every sheet of warqa, remembering to butter each layer.
- Although other recipes calling for Chinese noodles may instruct you to soak the noodles in hot water, be sure to use cold water for this recipe. That's because you want the noodles to absorb the flavor of the tomato sauce.
- To shape single-serving bastillas, use a small bowl with a flat bottom or a mold as your guide. Drape small overlapping pieces of warqa pastry over the bowl and gently press into the bottom of the bowl. Add some filling, packing it gently to 1/2" (2 cm) thickness. Wrap up the edges of the pastry to enclose the filling, trimming excess pastry to make it as smooth as possible. Carefully remove the bastilla from the bowl or mold and invert it so that the smooth bottom becomes the top of your small bastilla. Butter the outside of the bastilla and repeat. If freezing, wrap each bastilla individually in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container or freezer bag.