Leeks with Wine Sauce over Penne

Leeks with Wine Sauce over Penne

Serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a main course

Adapted from Pinot, Pasta, and Parties by Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino.  Recipe reprinted with permission.

5 – 6 medium-diameter leeks (about 2 pounds)

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves

1 pound penne

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil for the pasta.

Trim and discard the dark green parts of the leaves from the leeks, but keeping the white and light green parts.  Trim a thin slice from the root end of the leeks (cutting off any root pieces but not allowing the leek to fall apart) and cut each leek in half lengthwise.  Wash the trimmed leeks under running water.  Spread the inner layers gently to remove any trace of soil without separating the layers.  If the leeks are very sandy, soak them a few times in clear water.

Put the leeks, cut side down, on a cutting board and slice crosswise into very thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks and saute until wilted, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat if the leeks start to brown.

Add the wine, salt, and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit and the scent of wine fades, about 5 minutes.  (At this point, you can set the leeks aside for up to a couple of hours, see note below).

Stir in the parsley.  Taste to see if additional salt and pepper are needed.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the penne according to package directions until just al dente.  Ladle out a cup of the hot pasta water just before draining and have it ready.  Drain the pasta and toss it immediately with the leek sauce in the skillet.  Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and stir everything together, cooking over high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute, until the pasta looks a little creamy without visible water in the bottom of the skillet.  Add more pasta water if you need to.  Turn off the heat and stir in the grated cheese, mix well.  Serve immediately.

Note:  If you want to cook the leeks ahead, they’ll sit for a couple of hours at this point.  The color will be a little duller in the final dish, but you can compensate by adding a total of four tablespoons of chopped parsley instead of two just before you put the pasta into the skillet.

Variation:  Cut one boneless chicken breast into ½-inch dice, and remove the casings from two links of chicken Italian-style sausage (about a half pound each of chicken and chicken sausage).  Cook the chicken and sausage in the olive oil, then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the leeks and proceed as directed.  Toss the chicken in with the pasta when it goes into the skillet.