Late February is kind of a weird time of year—too springlike to warrant more root vegetables, but not actually spring. Leeks, while not actually a spring vegetable, kind of seem like they could be a spring vegetable, so I’ve found myself using them more often. Most braised leek recipes are usually designed to be served on their own as a side dish—as was this recipe before I adapted it—but because we hardly ever eat meals that warrant full-on side dishes, I figured it would be best over pasta instead. It’s not the most photogenic bowl of food, but what it lacks in visual pleasantries it more than makes up for in flavor. (Did I mention that in addition to the wine, the leeks are also braised in lemon juice, and CHEESE? Oh yeah.)
You may have noticed from the picture that I added some sourdough bread crumbs to soak up the excess liquid. There’s less liquid in the recipe below, so I didn’t include the bread crumbs, but if you’re an absolute bread-crumb fiend (they are out there, I suppose), feel free to add some. This makes about 4 generous servings.
• 6 leeks: $2.25
• 1 lb. pasta of your choice (short, chunky shapes work best): $1
• 6 T butter: 36 cents
• 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese: $1.25
• 2 cups dry white wine: $1.76
• 6 garlic cloves, minced: 6 cents
• Half a lemon: 33 cents
• Salt and pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $7.03/4 = $1.76/serving
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cut the bottom part off the leeks (white and light green parts), reserving the dark-green tops. Slice the bottom parts in half and wash, making sure to get in between all the layers, as there’s almost always dirt. slice the halves thinly cross-wise.
Wash the tops and chop.
Melt the butter in an oven-proof pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook slowly until fragrant, taking care not to burn it. Add the bottom leek parts and cook for about 5-6 minutes.
Add the green tops and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, until softened. Add the wine bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the juice from the lemon half. Then just throw in the whole lemon half itself (trust me). Stir in the cheese. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until reduced and the sauce is kind of shiny-looking. (I don’t have a picture for this because, again, I used too much liquid in my first pass and I don’t want to illustrate an incorrect method.)
While the leeks are braising, cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain, then stir into the leek mixture once it comes out of the oven. Serve immediately.