Boredom often breeds innovation, especially in the kitchen. This pasta was the result of a life lived in lockdown, with ample time to spare and a heightened desire to use ingredients to their full potential.
When Tara Holland, a friend and professional recipe developer, mentioned puréeing leek greens for the base of a risotto she’d been perfecting, she inspired a true light-bulb moment. Anyone who has worked in a professional kitchen understands how to optimize ingredients, squirreling away vegetable scraps for stock, but the concept of blending firm, fibrous leek greens into an edible product was intriguing. Could they truly be coaxed into submission?
The answer is yes. If you boil your leek greens until tender — which can be done in the time it takes to cook pasta — then set them in a high-power blender with some olive oil, they’ll emulsify into a remarkably creamy sauce, as silky as butternut squash purée. (It’s also a good reminder that there are infinite ways to achieve a creaminess without cream.)
But before you can start your sauce, you’ll need to start with prep. After the leek greens are set aside, this recipe maximizes the remaining leek stem in two ways: Frying julienned leek whites provides crispy, salty tendrils for garnish, and leaves behind a fragrant, potent leek oil that is later blended with the leek greens to create the sauce.
To complete the dish, boil the leek greens along with the pasta, and reserve some of that starchy pasta water to use in the sauce. Blend your mild, faintly sweet leek greens with the assertive leek oil, then toss the silky sauce with the pasta, thinning with more pasta water to taste. Top with a tangle of crispy leeks, and you have a pasta with a sweet, creamy sauce offset by a textural garnish.
Though this recipe doesn’t take long, it does not feel fast; to some, it may even qualify as fussy. But it’s about exploring new techniques and extracting everything you can from a few ingredients, each result a small triumph. It’s about finding pleasure in the process as much as in the results.
Recipe: Vegan Creamy Leek Pasta
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