Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pasta with leek pesto: a recipe

Mark Bittman's pasta with leek pesto
I don't care if you say you hate pesto. I don't care if you say you hate leeks. I guarantee you will love this dish. Trust me.

Ninjas don't lie.

This is another recipe from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook. I've been cooking from it all week and I can't hype it enough. Every recipe I've tried has been straightforward and delicious.

Go buy it. Seriously.

Bittman calls this "pesto" in quotation marks because, while it may look like pesto, it's so much more: thick and creamy, with just a hint of sweetness from the carmelized leeks.

On its own, this is a great vegetarian dish but I did throw in some nice ham that I had in the fridge, as you can see in the picture. I think it would be even better with a little crispy prosciutto or bacon, if you are still a meatasaurus as I am.

Traditionally, long skinny pastas are better for non-chunky sauces like this one, but I used multi-grain bowties because that's how I roll (that and I had half of an open box already in the pantry). Use whatever shape you like.

Go ahead, make it tonight. I swear you won't be disappointed.

Pasta with Leek "Pesto" (slightly adapted from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook)

1 1/2 ounces olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
Approx. 1 1/2 pounds leeks (about 2 or 3 large), trimmed, well-rinsed and chopped (great how-to video if you haven't worked with leeks before!)
salt and pepper
1 egg
1 cup chopped parsley
8 ounces pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped cooked bacon, prosciutto or ham (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft (about 25-30 minutes).

Transfer the leek mixture to a food processor. Add egg, parsley and a little salt and pepper. Process until well pureed.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain but reserve about a cup of the cooking water. Add the leek pesto and the cheese to the hot pasta and toss, adding pasta water to thin it to your desired consistency (I used at least 1/2 cup).

If using bacon or another meat, add it to the pasta and season to taste.

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