Leeks are the champions of the alliums, as far as I’m concerned. Buttery, flavourful, rich, and a little spicy, they have it all and are always worth the wait. So we wanted to allow them to take centre stage and this recipe does just that, using all the parts of the leek for a full flavour experience. It’s simple and delicious and if you need a bit more heft, just add bacon.
- 2 large leeks very well cleaned
- kosher salt
- olive oil
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk of choice
- black pepper
- 16 ounces dried spaghetti
- 1/2 lemon for juicing
- 1 ounce fresh parmesan for serving
Remove the green tops of the leeks from the white bottoms. Using long, careful cuts, slice the green parts of the leeks lengthwise, creating long green strips that are similar in size and shape to spaghetti noodles. Set these aside.
Halve the white parts of the leeks and thinly slice them crosswise into half-moon pieces. Set aside.
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Prepare a bath of ice water to the side. Liberally season the water with salt and submerge the green parts of the leeks into the water for 30 seconds to a minute, or until they are softened and bright green. Transfer them directly into the ice bath and remove the heat from the water, but leave the pot on the stove.
Set a large sauté pan on the burner next to the pot and bring it to medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons). Let this heat up before adding the white parts of the leeks. Season with salt and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir to melt the butter and combine.
Cook down the white parts of the leeks for 15-25 minutes, quickly “caramelizing” them (true caramelization would take 45-60 minutes, but this is our quicker version!).
Bring the pot of water that blanched the green parts of the leeks back to a boil. Add in the spaghetti and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until al dente.
While the pasta is boiling, move the caramelized leeks to the side of the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour. Stir into a paste.
Gradually add the milk into the pan, using about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring for 30 seconds until it has combined with the butter and flour, and repeating until a smooth sauce forms. Swirl this together with the caramelized leeks. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the pasta is ready, use tongs to transfer it right into the creamy sauce. Add splashes of pasta water to help everything emulsify.
Drain and squeeze out any excess moisture from the green parts of the leeks, and add them to the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir until everything is combined.
Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve and top with parmesan cheese.