Macaroni With Leeks

macaroni with leeks

I first heard of leeks in Mireille Guiliano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat. The recipe for Magical Leek Soup is one of the first recipes in the book, and I actually had to Google leeks to understand what exactly they were. They sounded leafy to me, but I quickly learned they belonged to the onion-garlic family.

Since moving to Pune, leeks have been pretty regular in our kitchen. The greenmarket has lovely leeks, and they’re reasonably priced as well. While leek and potato soup is a classic, I like eating the leeks whole or sliced.

I’m one of those cooks who enjoys the “prep,” part of cooking. I like getting my mise-en-place on, washing and prepping my vegetables and laying out my spices and condiments beforehand. But of course, any dish which requires a little less prep is always welcome. Leeks are great because they don’t require too much prep- they may appear imposing with their green heads, but they are a pretty uncomplicated vegetable to work with.

Leeks don’t beg to be peeled. They don’t need “activation,” or overnight soaking. They don’t need a slow-cooker or a big oven. They just need to have the green tops cut off, and rinsed well to get any grit out. Yes, this part takes a little patience. There usually is a fair amount of dirt and sandy grit nestled between the leaves, but once that is rinsed off and the leeks are sliced or chopped, they submit willingly to olive oil, butter and some salt and pepper- and that’s all they really need.

I looked at two recipes with leeks and pasta- Leeks Fettuccine from Guiliano’s French Women For All Seasons, and the other, Nigel Slater’s Pappardelle with Leeks. I sliced the leeks Guiliano-style but cooked them Slater-style, with butter. (Slater claims that “Leeks like butter rather than oil, and a low heat in which to cook,” so I did just that.) Both recipes are pretty bare-boned simple. If you have young leeks you don’t need to do much more to amp up the flavour except cook them with butter. Add cooked pasta, some good cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and herbs like thyme, tarragon or basil and your meal is ready. (I skipped the herbs and added some rehydrated sundried tomatoes.)

Agreed, a ribbon-y pasta looks much nicer with leeks- but I used macaroni because my son loves it.

MACARONI WITH LEEKS AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced into half-moons
  • 50 g butter (this comes to half a bar of Amul butter, the small 100 g pack- it seems like a lot but you don’t need much else to dress the pasta!)
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked macaroni
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in water and drained.
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook till al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in another large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and let them cook slowly in the butter until soft and tender.
  • Once the leeks are cooked, add in the cooked pasta, the sundried tomatoes, a little bit of the pasta water and parmesan. Mix well, pull off the heat and serve. Add more parmesan and butter by all means, if you wish 😀
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Valentine Hangover: Spaghetti With Roasted Bell Pepper Marinara

Valentine’s Day. I’ve never given it much thought, nor have I been big on celebrations. Some gifts exchanged, yes. Some fancy dinners had, yes. But this year, I thought it was time to bring out the cheese. You know, since I’m attempting to be a phancy blogger mom & wife and all that.

Since everyone was embracing the theme of red foods, I decided I would cook a reddish meal. (I made this decision at noon.)  I did not have much to work with, nor did I have the time to go beyond my neighbourhood grocer and procure produce. (A little alliteration.) (Twice!!)

I had most of the ingredients for cake, plus some whole wheat spaghetti, as well as lovely red bell peppers and lots of tomatoes. I just needed to get some icing sugar to make frosting, some red food colouring for the cake batter, and while I was getting that I saw some strawberry Tang, and thought, hey! pink drink. (I know what you are thinking. But I really didn’t have time to go out and get red wine. And I am not much of a drinker anyway. Kind of contradicts the title of this post. I am being a responsible mom and staying off alcohol till weaning is over! Did I mention that I love strawberry Tang?)

So here was the menu for my Reddish Valentine Dinner.

  1. Spaghetti with Roasted Bell Pepper Marinara
  2.  Red But Not Quite Velvet Cake
  3. Strawberry Tang

And you know what? It was quite enjoyable. And my husband was pleasantly surprised and extremely happy. And my 10-month old son slurped up some spaghetti, too. 2 strings, to be exact. Nice enough for me!

SPAGHETTI WITH ROASTED BELL PEPPER MARINARA

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large RED bell pepper
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes (or fresh if you prefer)
  • A little basil, fresh or dried
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree (optional)
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  • In a small pot, blanch your tomatoes, remove the skin and seeds and set aside.
  • Boil the onion (whole) till soft and set aside (Just put the tomatoes and onions in the pot together. Saves time.)
  • Roast the red bell pepper over a flame, let cool, and remove the seeds and stem.
  • In a blender, zhuzh up (puree) the tomatoes, onion and roasted bell pepper.
  • In a pot, pour in the olive oil. When it gets hot, add the garlic cloves and sautee till soft.
  • Add in the tomato puree at this point. This is just to add a little bulk to the sauce.
  • Next, add your blended paste of tomato-onion-bell pepper.
  • Toss in the crushed chilli flakes, oregano, basil and salt to taste.
  • Allow to simmer on a medium or low flame for 5-7 minutes.

Spoon over some cooked spaghetti or any other pasta and dinner is ready!

I’ll post the cake tomorrow 🙂 I hope you all shared a happy February 14th with your loved ones.

Look Ma, I’m Rachael Ray! OR Creamy Tagliatelle With Mushrooms & Sausage

I’m a big fan of Italian food, and I love a simple pasta for dinner. I’m also a Rachael Ray fan…I know she has her haters, but I’m on the other side. She tosses everything up so quickly, so smartly, that you just can’t help but think: that would look pretty darn good on my plate this evening. And today, after seeing  this post with tagliatelle and baked barbecue chicken, I just had to have some tagliatelle for dinner.

I love long pasta. Long pasta which you can twirl around your fork and toss into your mouth with a sophisticated slurp. Well, as sophisticated as a slurp can get. (I’m sure the French have found a way to do so.) So as much as possible, I opt for spaghetti and tagliatelle. I used to be a penne person, until Maggi came out with their ridonkulous Maggi Pazzta in mushroom penne. They have put me off penne. Perhaps for good. Anyway.

This recipe isn’t taken from Rachael Ray, but I whipped it up like Ms Ray would- quickly, using whole foods, whatever was available on hand, and piled high on my plate. Therefore, I dedicate this post to her. As you can see, the pictures were taken after the sun set, therefore kind of garish.

I started with garlic and mushrooms and sautéed them in olive oil, with S&P (like Rachael says.)

I had some chicken sausages in my freezer, so I defrosted them, chopped them into 1/2 inch thick round pieces, and tossed them in, along with some fresh basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary + oregano flakes and chilli flakes. I added a little water at this point- maybe a quarter cup- not too much (mushrooms release a lot of water anyway.)

Then I added a dollop of this awesome creamy cheese spread called Puck (weird name for a cream cheese spread, I know). You may use any cheese spread you like, or fresh cream for that matter. I added a quarter cup of milk as well, more salt and pepper to taste, and let everything simmer.

Meanwhile, I had already cooked my tagliatelle al dente and kept it aside.

Now that the sauce is done, grab your tagliatelle (which has been cooked al dente, drained and set aside.) Sauce it up, twirl it around your fork, dig in! As Ms Ray would say: Soooper soooper simple and soooper soooper great as a main or a side. For Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, Easter, Diwali, Holi, or any other time of year. (Oh, but I jest. I doubt she would say that.)

CREAMY TAGLIATELLE WITH MUSHROOM & SAUSAGE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 packet tagliatelle pasta + enough water to boil it in (roughly 300 grams)
  • 200 grams sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 sausages (regular sized ones, not cocktail ones. Add more sausages of you want.)
  • Basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary: just scissor or chop it in, according to taste. (I like a stronger flavour of basil so I added more. Here you should just consult your taste buds.)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (omit if you wish)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cheese spread (or cream)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  • First, get your tagliatelle on. Boil in water till al dente, drain and keep aside.
  • Add olive oil to a pot. When the oil get gets hot, add garlic, salt, pepper and sautée till garlic becomes soft. Add sliced mushrooms and sautée some more.
  • Add sausages + all the herbs + chilli flakes. Sautée further.
  • Add water and simmer for a minute or so.
  • Next, add the cheese spread/cream and milk, turn the flame to medium, cover and allow to simmer for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally. Once your sauce has thickened, you are ready to plate up.
  • Spoon over or incorporate into your tagliatelle, and you are good to go!

And that was dinner 😛

Oh yeah, and you can use any variety of pasta you like 😀