This pasta and leeks casserole is Italian comfort food at its best. It is easy to prepare and very creamy and tasty. The flavor of the leeks is enhanced by slightly caramelizing them. I used mozzarella on top, but you could substitute with additional bechamel and parmigiano. This is a filling dish, so it is suitable to be served as piatto unico rather than just a primo piatto. Click here for an explanation of the Italian meal structure.
For 2 servings
450 grams (1 lb) leeks, white and light green part only, weight after cleaning
150 to 200 grams (.33 to .44 lb) short pasta, I used wholewheat fusilli
bechamel sauce, made using 250 ml (1 cup) milk, 25 grams (2 Tbsp) of butter, and 25 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) of flour
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
50 grams (1.8 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
250 grams (.55 lb) mozzarella, or double the amount of bechamel and the amount of parmigiano
25 grams (2 Tbsp) butter, plus more for greasing the oven dish
Use only the white and light green part of the leeks. Cut in half lengthwise and then into half rounds. Wash the leeks to make sure to remove all the sand.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Add the leeks and season with salt.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
Stir until the leeks are lightly coated with butter.
Cover and cook the leeks over medium-low heat, stirring regularly…
…until the leeks have softened and are slightly caramelized.
In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta for the time indicated on the package for al dente, minus 1 or 2 minutes.
In the meantime, make a white sauce. Click here for the easiest way to do this.
Butter an oven dish.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the leeks.
Add the white sauce…
…as well as the freshly grated parmigiano, freshly grated nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper.
Stir to mix. Fusilli is a great pasta shape for ‘absorbing’ the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper, or perhaps a bit more nutmeg.
Transfer the mixture to the buttered oven dish, and level the top.
Cover the top with mozzarella (or with white sauce and then a layer of freshly grated parmigiano, and dot with small pieces of butter).
Bake in the oven at 200C/400F until the cheese on top is golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Ravioli alla genovese are one of the typical stuffed fresh pasta dishes from Liguria. They are stuffed with greens and some of the meat from the meat sauce, and served with a meat sauce.