Monday, November 30, 2009

Pasta With Leek Sauce

Mr. Bento bears two helpings of this treat today (accompanied by John's delicious parsnip and Parmesan soup -- recipe courtesy of one version of the New Covent Garden Soup Co. Book of Soups -- and 5 oz. of sardines in tomato sauce). It's a riff on a recipe from Chowhound, which in turn riffs on a recipe from Marcella Hazan. While I initially balked at the amount of butter and the lengthy cooking time, this turned out wonderfully -- this and the soup made for sweet, earthy dinner on a near-winter night (and of course, there were leftovers for today). My version below:

5 medium-sized leeks, white and light-green parts cut into 1/4" rounds (will use 1-2 more next time)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. butter
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup half and half (original recipe called for 1/2 cup heavy cream)
1 (13.2 oz) box whole wheat pasta (used penne this time)
salt and freshly-ground pepper
2-4 oz. (or more to taste) freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Clean leeks by soaking in a bowl of water or using a salad spinner. Remove excess water, but don't dry them too thoroughly.

Put oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic till it's just starting to brown. Remove garlic (I saved mine for roasting and having separately, but may try leaving it in next time).

Add leeks to the skillet. Sprinkle them with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, till they're extremely soft and almost meltingly tender (about 45 minutes - 1 hour). If they start looking dry, add 2-3 tablespoons of water at a time, then stir. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water till al dente.

NOTE: Since my leeks were already turning brown and we were getting hungry, I skipped this step. Turn the heat to high and cook the leeks till they're a pale nut color, flipping them occasionally.

Add half-and-half to the skillet and reduce for about a minute. Season liberally with pepper. Add cooked pasta to skillet (or transfer sauce mixture into pasta pot, whichever you prefer) and mix everything together; then, add a generous amount of grated cheese (enough to ensure a clingy, non-liquidy sauce) and mix again. Correct seasoning and serve.

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