I am a big fan of leeks. I love them. I grow them. I will eat them in any form. And I am always on the lookout for any recipe at all that contains a decent amount of leeks. So, while paging through an old issue of Bon Appétit (March 2009, to be exact), this recipe lept out at me. I only had three leeks on hand, so cut this recipe in half and, since I like a crunchy topping on my baked pasta dishes, dusted it with a layer of Parmesan cheese and another of Panko. I find pasta needs a bit of a heavy hand with salt, so keep that in mind, and found that it benefited greatly from a splash of dry sherry. Oh, momma, is this good!
Baked Penne with Farmhouse Cheddar and Leeks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
5 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 5 large)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups packed)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 large eggs
1 pound penne pasta
Lightly butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes (do not brown). Uncover saucepan; add flour. Stir 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to simmer, stirring often. Add cheese, mustard, and pepper sauce. Stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Season cheese sauce to taste with salt.
Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 cup cheese sauce. Stir egg mixture into cheese sauce in saucepan.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot.
Stir cheese sauce into pasta in pot. Transfer to prepared baking dish. do ahead Can be made 2 hours ahead.* Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake pasta until cheese sauce is bubbling around edges and some ends of pasta are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot.
*Out of necessity, I had to refrigerate this dish and bake and serve it the following day. It turned out beautifully, so this dish is definitely make ahead.
This post is linked to: On the Menu Monday