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Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe for Pasta with Leeks and Parsley, which I found in the Epicure section of 'The Age', a Melbourne newspaper, but which apparently first appeared in the 'New York Times'. Such is our global village! I'm posting this as an Australian recipe, since it appeared in an Australian newspaper, for the 2005 Zaar World Tour. Mark Bittman's comments on this recipe are "Pre-cooking the garlic and chillies in olive oil is a classic Roman treatment. What you want is to brown, not burn, the garlic, so that it and the chillies heavily flavour the oil. Once that's done, so is most of the work; just cook the leeks until soft, and when they're about halfway there, start cooking the pasta. I add red capsicum or tomato, mostly for colour; although neither is really necessary. Finally, reserve a little of the pasta cooking liquid in case the sauce is too dry. That, plus a handful of parsley, completes the dish." When I made this, I omitted the chillies (personal taste preference), and I increased the garlic, added handful of baby spinach leaves and added cumin and pine nuts. Like most pasta recipes, this is one you can play around with a lot.
- 1⁄2 cup roasted pine nuts
- 3 big leeks (at least 500g, total) or 4 medium leeks (at least 500g, total)
- salt, to taste
- fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
- 2 -3 dried red chilies
- 1⁄2 red capsicums or 1 tomato, minced
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
- 500 g spaghetti or 500 g linguine or 500 g other long pasta
- baby spinach leaves
- 3⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Dry roast the pine nuts and set aside.
- Trim the root end of the leeks, then cut off the hard green leaves, leaving a bit of green where they meet the white part. Split the leeks down the middle, discard the outer white leaves (the ones that don't cut easily), then chop the leeks (or cut them with kitchen scissors into one inch or 2.5cm pieces). Wash very well, and spin or shake dry.
- Set a large pot of water to boil, and salt it.
- Put half the butter or oil in a large pan, preferably non-stick, on medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic and chillies, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns. Remove the chillies (and garlic if you prefer).
- Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they wilt, about 10 minutes.
- Add the capsicum or tomato and lower the heat; add the cumin and continue to cook, stirring once in a while, until the leeks begin to brown.
- Cook the pasta until it is tender - al dente, and drain, reserving about half a cup of the cooking liquid.
- Toss the pasta and the leeks, add the pine nuts, the baby spinach leaves (added at this stage, they will be just wilted but no more) together with the remaining butter or oil, freshly ground black pepper to taste and all but a little of the parsley, adding a bit of cooking liquid if the mixture seems dry.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.