Great Simple Recipe: Pasta With Leeks

I think leeks have a bad rap–I remember “eww”ing a lot as a child. But oh, how misinformed I was! Potato leek soup, pork and leek dumplings, leek omelette…oh, let me count the ways a leek can be delicious. Now that I’m an adult, I planted a row of leeks in my garden, and I “ew” no more. They’re such beautiful vegetables; they stand up straight like a duke, their smooth white base and sturdy green leaves spiking to the sky. Yum, in other words.

Chefs Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, authors of In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love, give great simple recipes (combined with stories of where the recipe comes from!):

The following is an excerpt from In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love. It has been adapted for the web.

Pasta e Porri
Pasta with Leeks and Parmigiano

Let’s not pretend that this dish isn’t really just a vehicle for the cheese. The heat of the pasta and the sweetness of the leeks seem to elevate the aroma and flavor of the parmigiano to the front of the dish. And that’s just fine. If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute yellow onions. Serves 4.

4 leeks (each about 1 inch in diameter)
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¾ pound pasta [I recomend penne, orecchiete, or
Tajarín (p. 112)] 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional as needed
Olive oil

Cut off the bottoms of the leeks and wash the leaves well. Agitate the leaves in a tub of cold water and rub off any stubborn dirt with your fingers. Shake off as much water as you can. Cut the leeks crosswise into ¼-inch slices.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and a few large pinches of salt and pepper, and stir well to coat. Cover the pot, keeping the heat medium. Stir the leeks after 6 or 8 minutes, cover again, and cook them down until they are completely softened. Taste them and correct the seasoning. Turn off the heat, but let the sauce stay warm in its pot while you cook the pasta. Cook the pasta. Once it’s ready, drain the pasta but don’t shake off all the water.

Add the 2 cups grated cheese to the sauce and stir. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss together thoroughly. Give the cheese a chance to melt and really bind everything together. Add a little olive oil if the dish seems too dry. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano so that each diner may add cheese as desired at the table.

I’d like to add, because I can’t hold back: I was so thrown by this recipe (and I have a ton of leeks in the garden) that made this last night for dinner. It was so delicious! So light, so fresh. I love their recipes.

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