I’m currently in the midst of a love affair with leeks. If you haven’t fallen head over heels for them like I have yet, leeks are tall green and handsome vegetables that are in the same general family as onions. They seem to be available pretty much all year round, and when they are sliced thin and sautéed up in a little butter or olive oil or bacon drippings they are both sweet and tangy all at the same time. I’ve totally abandoned my trusty basket of yellow onions to carry on with leeks, and my current favorite leek dish is this glorious mixture of pasta, bacon, parmesan cheese, cream and you-know what.
Yep, we are basically talking about a cross between fettuccine alfredo and pasta carbonara with leeks. This is a rich and glorious supper and you only need a small serving in a warm bowl to make you feel pampered and deliciously full. So in the fabulous words of a cookbook that my grandmother once had on her shelf, First You Take A Leek. Cut off the bottom bit with the roots and the tough dark green top – you’ll be left with about 4-5 inches of white and pale green leek. Now cut that part in half length-wise and give it a good rinse under running water, letting the water get into the layers. Leeks are famously for hiding sand in their nooks and crannies – don’t ask me why. I don’t hold it against them.
Now slice your clean leek into 1/4 inch slices cross-wise – they will look like little pale green half-moons – and set them aside while you cook up some bacon in a nice big skillet. Once the bacon is nice and crispy, scoop it out and sauté your leeks in the bacon drippings until they are just tender, about 3 minutes. Now pour in some cream and a little fresh chopped thyme and simmer it just until the cream thickens up the teeniest bit.
In the meantime you want to be cooking up your pasta – I used pappardelle but fettuccine will also do just fine. Make sure you save some of the pasta water before you drain it. Add the hot cooked pasta to the sauce in your skillet along with some grated Parmesan and your cooked bacon. Toss it all together with tongs, and if the sauce looks like it needs a little thinning, drizzle in some of the pasta water until it loosens up. Now scoop it onto your serving plates (and if you have heated up your plates in a 200 degree oven while all this is going on the pasta is going to stay nice and warm and creamy for the entire meal, so heat those plates!). Make sure everyone gets their fair share of leeks and bacon.
Recipe lightly adapted from Bon Appetit
- 6 slices bacon, cut into one inch pieces
- 2 leeks, trimmed to just the white and pale green parts, cleaned and sliced lengthwise and crosswise
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 8 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Cook bacon in a large skillet until done. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- With heat turned to medium high, sauté leeks in bacon drippings until tender, about 3 minutes. Add cream and thyme to skillet and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Meantime, cook pasta according to package directions (make sure to salt that pasta water!). Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain.
- Add drained pasta, cheese and bacon to sauce in skillet and toss to coat. Add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce (you might not need all of it). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve at once on warmed plates.