Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6: BLT Pasta Bake: Bacon, Leeks, and Tomatoes

   Coarse Salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots and dark green tops
   Coarse black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken stock or broth
3 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs

Place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water reaches a boil, add some salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the EVOO and chopped bacon and cook until crisp.

While the bacon is cooking, split the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise, lay the leeks cut side down, and thinly slice into half-moons. Fill a large bowl with water and mix the leeks into the water. Allow the water to settle and the dirt and grit to settle on the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands, draw the leeks from the water, taking care to not unsettle the dirt. Drain the cleaned leeks on a kitchen towel, pat them dry,

and then add to the pan with the bacon. Season the leeks with salt and pepper. Cook the leeks until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

To start the cheese sauce, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then add the flour, cayenne, and paprika and whisk together over the heat until the roux bubbles; cook for 1 minute more.

Whisk in the milk and stock and raise the heat a little.

Bring the sauce to a quick boil and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in 3 cups of the grated cheese and the mustard. Set aside.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the leeks and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat the broiler.

Drain the pasta and add it back to the pasta pot.

Combine the reserved leek mixture and the cheese sauce with the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese with the bread crumbs.

Top the pasta with the mixture.

Place the dish under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are brown.


I made this recipe early this morning because we had a potluck after church today. They moved the evening service to the afternoon so people could come to church and still watch the Packers in the Superbowl. There was too much to fit in my casserole dish, so I scooped out a serving before putting the topping on and I ate it with Leah before church. It was good even without the topping. Probably better, since I left it in the broiler too long and burned the top. That's probably why it wasn't very popular at the potluck. Oh well. More for me at lunch tomorrow.

I made the recipe as directed, but I used a little turkey bacon with my bacon because I ran out. I used Monterey Jack instead of Gruyere because I couldn't find any. I used grape tomatoes instead of cherry because that's what they had in the store. I don't know how big of a difference those changes make, but I would suggest using the called-for ingredients if you can get them. She suggests it is 4 servings, but you can get at least 6 large servings from this meal.

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