Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Leeky Pasta Bowl

The Allium Family- Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester and Lurch Onions, Garlic, Chives, Leeks, Shallots and Scallions. Each word evokes the promise of a savory and aromatic morsel. All this month, the alliums are going to be the "flavor of the month" on One Hot Stove. Three of the family members- onions, garlic and scallions- are near and dear to me; I have them stocked in my kitchen at all times. But sometimes I have a feeling that I take them for granted, and would like to occasionally use them in dishes where their presence is celebrated and not just working behind the scenes. The other three alliums- chives, leeks and shallots- are barely known to me, and this will be a good chance to find some recipes where they shine. Read more about the culinary profiles of the alliums in this Cooking Light article. Apart from the sheer delicious taste that compels me to play with this family of vegetables, they also happen to be superfoods with many health benefits to their name.

My first experiment is with leeks. Picture a scallion (spring onion/ green onion) that has been pumping up its muscles with illegal pharmaceuticals- that is exactly what a leek looks like, robust and hearty. They are beautiful vegetables, with a snow white root end slowly changing color to dark green at the tips. This SFGate article has great advice on growing and preparing leeks.

I googled around for a leek recipe and decided on this simple one from Marcella Hazan, shared in the Chowhound forum. This recipe belongs to a family of pasta dishes that I invariably enjoy- vegetables and garlic gently sauteed in olive oil and butter, then splashed with some cream, cheese and pasta water to make a sauce for pasta. We have discovered a particular brand of whole-grain pasta from Trader Joe's that we simply love, and I cook it quite often knowing that a simple pasta supper is giving us a good supply of protein and fiber. The recipe does call for butter, cream and cheese, but I used all these in moderate quantities where a little goes a long way.

Spaghetti in a Creamy Leek Sauce

(adapted from this recipe, originally from Marcella Hazan; serves 3-4)
1/2 lb whole-wheat spaghetti
4 medium leeks
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 T butter
3 T cream
3 T parmesan (or similar) cheese
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
1. Start boiling a large pot of salted water for pasta.
2. Prepare the leeks: Cut off and dicard dark green portions of the leeks (can save these portions for stock). Cut the white and light green parts into 1/4 inch rounds.Place the sliced leeks in a bowl and rinse well with cold water.
2. Heat oil and butter together in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Saute the garlic until fragrant.
3. Add the leeks and some salt to taste. Saute the leeks on medium heat for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked down to a creamy consistency, stirring once in a while. Add a little water if the leeks start to dry out. At the end of cooking time, let the leeks cook to almost a golden color.
4. Stir in the cream, pepper and red pepper flakes (to taste) and set the sauce aside.
5. Cook pasta in the boiling water. Save 1 cup of the pasta water.
6. Stir cooked spaghetti into the sauce. Add enough pasta water to bring the sauce to the desired consistency. Stir in the parmesan and serve.

What started off as a simple supper turned out to be quite special- this pasta is outstanding! The leeks have a wonderful flavor that is mild and pleasing, and the sauce showcases it beautifully. This is the perfect pasta for a winter night, and definitely goes straight on to "keeper" list.

I served the pasta with some simple roasted beets.

More leek dishes:
Leek and Potato Soup
Leek Souffle
Savory Leek Quiche
Leek and Potato Galette
Leeky Lemon Risotto
Leek-Stuffed Kulcha

I'm thrilled to have discovered leeks and in celebration, I am sending this post over to Kalyn for Weekend Herb Blogging. WHB is in its third year of celebrating the beauty of herbs and vegetables!

Which of the alliums is your personal favorite? Do you have any much-loved recipes using alliums?

*** *** *** *** ***

My birthday gift to V was an "experience" gift: a skydive. On the last day of 2007, V jumped from a plane! That's him in the picture, free-falling in the skies above Missouri. He landed safely on terra firma a few minutes later with the words, "Man, that was peaceful" and a huge grin on his face. Who knew falling from the sky could be so much fun?


  1. Hi Nupur,
    I am a regular reader at your blog and totally enjoy reading it. Your recipes and its narration are excellent, have tried your jhatpat appe and few other items. My new year resolution is to write comments atlease once in a while, so here I am finally :-)

  2. Oh my goodness, I would be terrified to go skydiving! Tell him good job! I admire his bravery.

    The pasta with leeks sound great. I've hardly cooked with them, but I've loved the flavor whenever I've had something in a restaurant with leeks. I love the idea to use the alliums for a month!

  3. Lovely looking pasta, Nupur! I love leeks, and in that creamy delicious sauce, yep, Yum!

    Happy Birthday V and more power to you -- though it looks beautiful, that's one experience I don't think I could handle! :)

  4. I've used leeks lots in soups and stocks, but seldom as a "main ingredient". This pasta looks so yummy - can't wait to try it!

  5. That was a nice definition for a Leek..hehe! I'm unfamiliar with leeks too, this dish would be a good start. The sky dive pic is awesome!

  6. I just loved the color of the pasta Nupur.. Man, the skydiving pic looks scary to me.. wonder how 'V' did it..:))

    Hope u had a blast for New Year!

    ~ Siri

  7. Wow! You made him jump from a plane! I can't even imagine - either skydiving myself or sending my better half to do it.. You are one brave girl! That is one precious picture. I know you two are going to cherish it forever.

    And I am glad you liked the picture of ixora. It grows in my grandma's yard. I, too, have been missing it for long. My sister sent me that picture which she took during her recent visit to grandma's. Some sights are quite nostalgic, eh? :)

  8. Leeks are completely new to me and ya, i would love to do such sky diving...superb gift

  9. that pasta sure looks creamy. i love the color too.

    and yes,i have heard many nice stories of falling from the sky. dont know if i will ever have the courage to do it myself :)

  10. The temperature is dropping by the hour in New York, and your pasta dish looks so warm and inviting! I like your thoughts about how we tend to take certain ingredients for granted, and should look for ways to showcase them in our cooking.

  11. i'm a pucca garlic-o-holic :) pasta looks yumm, hv u tried their spinach & chive linguine?
    wow! not sure if i could skydive, para-sailing itself was a streth for

  12. Leek and potato soup, the warm version without cream, is one of my absolute favorite allium recipes. And, of course, there's French onion soup. It's hard to imagine a cooked dish that doesn't start with some form of allium, but you're so right -- we take them for granted. Looking forward to more Allium Family dishes this month!

  13. Leeks, pasta and especially beets. Some of my favorites! I've read Kalyn's site a few times over the past year or so; it's hard to believe she's been at WHB for three years?!? And all the interesting recipes she's gotten people to try. It's great.

  14. I just bought leeks for the very first time and I have all the other ingredients. I will try it soon.

  15. hi nupur,

    I am a maharashtrian living in bangalore and a thorough foodie.
    i stumbled upon ur blog a few weeks ago when searching for a receipe with molasses and now i am hooked!!
    great receipes and even better photos.. i am trying out a couple of them..

  16. Pasta looks very warm and inviting...though never have had anything which had leeks in it.....that was one adventure filled gift for bday wished to him...

  17. Happy New year to You !
    Beetroot roast looks lovely!

  18. Happy new year Nupur to you n family and hey hey I never knew V was such a daredevil!!!
    Gosh I still can't believe it!!
    V's picture look incredible and so does your pasta

  19. Meghana, thank you for the feedback :) I sure appreciate it!

    Kalyn, skydiving would not be my cup of tea either :D but he was looking forward to it with all the excitement of a kid before Christmas!
    I hardly ever cook with leeks too, but boy, they are so flavorful in an elegant subtle way...I am glad I tried this recipe. Thanks for hosting WHB :)

    Linda, :) yes, me neither. I do think I have a sense of adventure but it does not extend to such things as skydiving. I was quite happy to watch from the ground!

    Cathy, you will love this is simply perfect for this weather! I have to try leek in it adds a great aroma.

    Namratha, it is such a simple dish, but I think am in love with leeks now, thanks to it :)

    Siri, yes, the cooked leeks are such a pretty pale shade of green! Skydiving gives more of a "rush" than it is scary, I am told :D I am not going to find out for myself anytime soon!

    RP, skydiving is not any more risky than, say, crossing the street at a busy intersection LOL so it did not take much bravery on my part.
    yes, the ixora picture was a real is such a pretty flower! :)

    Easycrafts, I hope you get to skydive sometime in is a unique and unforgettable experience for those who like such thrilling activities.

    Nags, me neither...I don't think I will every skydive myself.

    T W Barritt, I made the pasta on a night that was especially cold, and it was so warming :)
    Yes, I don't ever think twice about adding garlic and onions to recipes, though these are such special ingredients in their own right.
    I hope the shrikhand recipe worked out for you, if you did give it a try!

    Richa, me too, love garlic in all its glory :D I have not tried their spinach and chive linguine because it is not whole grain but it is silly not to try it once! Will do that soon.

    Lydia, really? I have got to try the leek and potato soup while it is still cold. And French onion soup is also something that I absolutely love to eat, and would love to make at home. Let's see how many I manage to make this month.

    Mari, yes, WHB finished 2 years a few months ago and has started on its third year! Yes, it truly inspires bloggers to go out and try new foods and recipes, all with herbs and vegetables that are so good for our bodies.

    Raaga, I think you will enjoy is a very tasty recipe.

    Supriya, Welcome to One Hot Stove and I am glad you found your way here! I do hope you enjoy the recipes. Thanks for stopping to say hi!

    Bhags, yes, it was one adventure for sure :)

    Rak's Kitchen, thanks :)

    Padmaja, V will be amused to know someone called him a daredevil :D truly, skydiving is not as risky as it would seem at all!

  20. I really love most alliums. Leeks remind me of my grandmother as she added them to everything!
    Double Squash Gratin and Belgian Turkey Ragout are two excellent recipes for which I have used leeks. Can't wait to hear what you try next!

  21. have a way of making even simple dishes look lovely...i have started using leeks about a year back when i saw ina on food tv make a sure is yummy!

    glad that V had a great have given an idea for my anniversary gift to jeeves :)

  22. Happy New Year to you and V, Nupur! The pasta looks yummy! Belated Happy B'day to V. Hey, That was such a great B'day present :). Really very thrilling! It must have been one unique experinece. Though i must say, i will have to muster up lots of courage before i dream of it :-D.

  23. That's a fantastic picture! It's also making me very wobbly on my feet!

  24. Goodness gracious!! That's really breathtaking! You guys are so cool. I wish you both a life filled with more fun, adventures and excitement.
    Well, I really was excited to see that spaghetti with leek sauce and beets, but when I saw V's skydiving, I had to comment on that first!! Very nice recipes.

  25. What a lovely pasta dish. I love your idea of serving it with beets!

  26. Wishing You, V & Dale a Great Year ahead!!!
    And my belated birthday wishes to 'V'.... man... he is brave !!!!

  27. I look forward to your recipes this month Nupur. Didn't you try skydiving too? ;)

  28. hi nupur pasta looks yummy I have'nt tried leeks till now but the pic looks so delecious have to try your recipe soon

  29. Skydiving.. ~GULP ~

    that pasta bowl looks creamy!! I have never tried leeks before .. maybe because of the name.. :D.. and truth be told, i did not know what 'alliums' were, thanx!! hmm, Onions, Garlic, Shallots and Scallions are the only ones i know!!!
    Love the roasted beets!

  30. Hey Nupur,
    Absolutely cool! V looks very cool in that picture. What a great gift and what a daredevil! I think about these things but not sure if i have the nerve to do these experience things :-)
    Pasta looks great!
    Happy New Year to u, V and Dale!

  31. lol about V's comment after free-falling.....Happy new year to you and your family!!!

  32. Lovely bowl of pasta, Nupur...and V does seem to be in seventh heaven :-)

  33. Nice recipe with Pasta & leeks Nupur. I have never tried cooking with it so far..

    V skydiving, man that really adventerous! He must have enjoyed & glad to land back on Earth!

  34. Oh, he's brave! I'm afraid of heights and just driving over bridges freaks me out!

  35. Gretchen, the double squash gratin sounds excellent! I might have to try that this month. Thanks for the suggestion :)

    Rajitha, leek soup is definitely on the list this month :) thank you for the sweet words!

    Musical, Happy New Year! It sure is nice to see you here. Yes, he truly thought it was a special b'day gift and that made it worth it.

    Manisha, LOL yes, I know what you mean!

    Meera, thank you so so much for the sweet wishes. Yes, life needs a little bit of excitement from time to time :)

    Lisa, glad you like it! I made beets just because I had them on hand, but was very pleased with the combination in the end.

    Leena, Happy New Year to you and your family too!

    Suganya, no, it is too expensive for me to just do it on a whim :) I am not a fan of adventure sports...not enough to splurge on them anyway!

    Sagari, try it, it is a delicious dish!

    Manasi, LOL yes, the name is not the most attractive, one must admit :D alliums are just the botanical family of all these yummy vegetables.

    Latha, not all experience gifts have to be adventure-sports related! Some memorable ones that V has given me include rowing in Central Park, salsa dancing lessons for the two of us, and an afternoon of pottery painting. Experience gifts are always so much fun.
    Happy New Year to you and your family!!

    Grihini, Happy New Year to you too!

    Smita, yes, his comments made the other sky-divers smile too. Happy New Year to you and your family too :)

    Sunita, yes, he enjoyed it very much!

    Seema, leeks are very tasty if you want to give them a try! Yes, I was very glad when he landed safely :)

    Anali, LOL yes, he sure is!

  36. i tried the leek sauce and pasta... very very yummy! thanks for the recipe.

  37. It's cute how you've compared a leek to a spring onion on steroids! :) pasta looks like perfect comfort food.
    My husband has wanted to skydive for so long but I'm too scared to let him try. You had to be brave too to let V go.. so kudos to you both!

  38. Can't believe I missed reading this post! Ironically I was on your blog for a good part of last evening recreating some of the Indian Chinese fare from V's b'day post!! Well that was one giant 'leap' of faith :) Now that I know good, sane, normal-type folks do this skydiving type thing, I hope to give it a shot sometime :) :D :P -- wishing V a belated birthday and the both of you a wonderful year ahead!

  39. Nupur, wow a great gift. Sounds perfect. And the pasta looks delicious, would love to try it sometime soon :) -- Mandira

  40. Nupur, the pasta looks delicious. I'd love to try this! Leeks are underrated, for sure.

    So when do you get to jump out of a plane?!

  41. I know I'm late to comment on this one, but loved your recipe and linked to it on my blog. I'm going to try it tonight!!! Great site!!!


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