A recipe inspired by the abundance of spring, created by our volunteer Megan Leaf
You know it’s spring when there’s an abundance of leeks at the farmers’ market! Until last year, I had no idea how to cook a leek or what they even tasted like. They seemed a little intimidating – like giant overgrown scallions. Was I supposed to use them as garnish?
But then I picked some up at the farmers market – 3 GIANT leeks for $2! – and decided to try them out in a potato leek soup. And guess what – they were amazing! Like extra buttery onions. But smoother.
Anyways, since last year I’ve mostly used them in pastas. But they can also go into a quiche for Mother’s Day, into stir fry, into a lovely baked chicken dinner, into puff pastry shells for fancy appetizers.
This recipe is an example of what I crave when spring rolls around – pasta with very little sauce, but lots of veggies, little bits of salty meat, and a lemony zing. You can easily substitute or add to this dish. I could eat it with a big handful of spinach, cooked down into the pasta at the last minute. Add artichoke hearts, or peas, or asparagus. Substitute fresh baked salmon for the pancetta. Go crazy and get creative with all the green produce in season right now!
Rigatoni with Leeks, Mushrooms & Pancetta
1 16 oz. package rigatoni
¾ cup leftover pasta water
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup parmesan reggiano + extra for topping
3 tbsp butter, divided
4 oz. pancetta or bacon
2 large leeks, chopped
2 large portabella mushrooms
Fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tbsp milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the rigatoni according to the instructions on the box, but take out 1-2 minutes early, before they reach the al dente stage. They should still be a little chewy with a snap. Drain the pasta, reserving ¾ cup of the water and set aside in a bowl.
While pasta is cooking, slice the leeks in half, and then into strips (see photo).
Dice the pancetta into tiny cubes. Cut the portabella mushrooms into ½ inch cubes.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat, with 1 tbsp of the butter. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook in the butter, about 5 minutes, to become just lightly brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a plate, leaving the melted fat and oil in the pan.
Add the chopped leeks and mushrooms to the pan (still over medium heat). Cook until the mushrooms are soft and small. The leeks and mushrooms should cook down to about half. Transfer cooked leeks and mushrooms to a bowl.
In the saucepan, still over medium heat, melt the additional 2 tablespoons of butter. Add lemon zest and juice, pasta water, and white wine. Turn up the heat to medium/high and allow to come to a boil. Stir in the 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese until no longer lumpy. Add the not-quite-al dente pasta to the sauce and stir well until noodles are totally coated and sauce begins to cook down. When there is only about 3-4 tbsp of sauce left in the pan, take the pan off the heat. Stir in the milk until completely incorporated. Add the leeks, mushrooms, and pancetta to the pasta and mix well. Add salt and pepper as desired.
Enjoy topped with fresh parsley and more parmesan!
Photos & Recipe by: Megan Leaf, The Bay Leaf Kitchen