Penne with Leeks and Pancetta (Penne con Porro e Pancetta)

My favorite food blog in Italian is Le Recette di Baccos. Marina has done a lot of research to identify traditional regional recipes, handed down from mother to daughter, and every day she shares one of them with us. About a month ago she shared a pasta dish that she had seen her own mother prepare: penne con porro e pancetta (penne with leeks and pancetta). It is as simple as it sounds. I prepared it using my own homemade pancetta, and loved it. Thank you Marina, for sharing this and other recipes! The main change that I made to her technique is that I cooked the leeks in the fat rendered from the pancetta to catch the additional flavor. I hope you approve, Marina 😉

If you compare the photo of my finished dish to Marina’s, you will notice that the ratio of leeks and pancetta to pasta is different for my dish. For Italians the pasta is the most important part of the dish, and therefore other ingredients are used sparingly. When we only have pasta for dinner (as a piatto unico), I change the proportions a bit so that the balance is suitable for a healthy meal. This means increasing the amount of vegetables and proteins relative to the carbohydrates (i.e. pasta). Even though we love pasta and eat it almost every day, this often means the proportion of pasta in the dishes I cook is lower than in Italy. In this case, I used the amount of leeks and pancetta for 4 to serve only 2.


For 2 servings as ‘piatto unico’

150 grams (.33 lb) penne pasta

2 leeks, white part only, about 400 grams (.9 lb)

100 grams (3.5 oz) pancetta, diced

1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and slice.

Sauté the pancetta in the oil in a frying pan.

Sauté them until they are slightly crispy.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, so the rendered fat stays behind.

Reserve the pancetta (and take a gratuitous pancetta shot).

Add the leeks to the pan with the remaining pancetta fat. Season with a bit of salt.

Cover the pan and cook the leeks over medium-low heat until they are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring now and then.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions.

When the leeks are tender (but not completely mushy)…

…add the pancetta and stir for a minute over low heat to reheat the pancetta.

Drain the pasta once it’s al dente and add it to the leeks and pancetta.

Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Add some freshly grated parmigiano.

Toss to mix.

Serve on warm plates, sprinkled with some more parmigiano.


Two years ago I prepared lemon-basil chicken breast sous-vide. The combination of chicken with lemon and basil works very well. You can also prepare this without using sous-vide.


23 thoughts on “Penne with Leeks and Pancetta (Penne con Porro e Pancetta)

  1. caro Stefan innanzitutto voglio ringraziarti per i complimenti che fai al mio blog; son contenta che apprezzi le mie ricette.
    Come non approvare la cottura del porro nel grasso della pancetta che deve essere favolosa perché fatta da te.
    Ti faccio anch’io i complimenti per il tuo blog perché mi piace la cura e la passione che metti nella preparazione dei piatti e anche , per i consigli sui vini da abbinare. Mi piace molto questo scambio di idee tra noi blogger.
    Buona serata e grazie ancora


  2. Stefan, This recipe is straightforward and elegant; it really highlights the great ingredients. Out of curiosity, why do you only use the white part of the leeks? I love the strong, sharp finishing cheese! And your “shot of pancetta” – that made me laugh. I call that a “chef snack.” Greg likes to pop in and take his own chef snacks when I cook in the evenings. 🙂 Best, Shanna


  3. Love this oh so simple but tasty recipe! More so, very much use your proportioning of vegetables/proteins myself with no detriment to overall taste and enjoyment. Carbs are so important for good health ~ using them ‘wisely’ tho’ does make a difference . . . Have to admit I use both white and green parts of a leek, but the green section methinks goes more into stirfries and salads!!


      1. [softly said!] Lucky me perhaps, ’cause have never personally known what that term means 🙂 ! I guess I could not be at home with all that ‘Asian stuff’ otherwise . . . . Absolutely the only food on this earth I found I cannot have is the SE Asian stinky fruit ‘durian’ – end up in hospital with a totally swollen face and body . . . . of all the things . . . . but then that is hardly a ‘big deal’!!!!!


    1. I guess they are. I hadn’t used them a lot for a while either, but as with most vegetables you have to use the right way to prepare them. Leeks are best when cooked slowly as they develop a nice sweetness to them and become easier to digest.


  4. Great dish, Stefan. I love leeks in just about anything and paired with bacon takes this dish to the next level. I, too, love the simplicity of the dish. It is a perfect weeknight meal.


  5. Last Spring, I promised that I’d do more with leeks, after seeing “new” leeks flooding the farmers market. In the end, I made one ravioli dish. This year will be different. I will definitely make this dish of yours, Stefan. It’s just the kind of pasta that I love. So simpe yet flavorful. I know a special Lady in Michigan that’s going to love it, too. I’ll tell her it’s from the Dutch branch of the Clan. 🙂


  6. Thanks for sharing this dish, I made it a few days ago and my girlfriend & I both loved it, will be having it again in the next few days! It will be added to my list of easy go-to dishes for sure. And your homemade pancetta looks delicious…


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