Leek Sauce for Pasta

Who knew that dinner inspiration could be as close as a bundle of fresh leeks? Some may find the idea of this easy weeknight pasta dinner unusual (I did, at first) but tastewise, it's comforting and familiar, almost a mac 'n' cheese for grownups, just warm pasta draped in a gentle puréed leek sauce. Dreamy stuff, this ...

Leek Sauce for Pasta, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, gently flavored leek sauce, dreamy for pasta. Just Five Ingredients, Just One Pot. Vegetarian.

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. Just Five Ingredients. Just One Pot. Somethin' Special, a Mac 'n' Cheese for Grownups. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Vegetarian. High Protein. Rave Reviews.

  • "Made it, ate it, loved it! ... deliciously easy recipe." ~ Adam

Have you ever had a dress – a plain dress – that just wears so easily, fits so comfortably, you wear it again and again?

That's how this oh-so-plain-looking plate of pasta strikes me: from its looks, there's no telling how gentle leek flavor drapes itself onto the pasta, hugging the legs and arms in all the right places; how it's something entirely new, and at the same time comfortable and familiar; how when the first pot was gone, I couldn't wait to copy the pattern and make another.

The technique is simple and it's all about the leek. The result isn't oniony at all, it's quite creamy. In fact, truly, will I ruin the dreaminess of this dish by suggesting that – despite using only 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a single ounce of cheese – it's got an essence of mac 'n' cheese that makes me want to make a double or triple batch, plop it into a casserole dish, top it with bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes?


What Are Leeks?

Recipes for Leeks ♥ KitchenParade.com

Leeks look like giant green onions, giant scallions, with roots attached to the bulbous white end and a tall mass of leek leaves at the green end. Pay attention to recipes, they'll often recommend using only the "white" and "light green" parts from the middle, discarding the stocks. But don't throw those leaves away! Use them to make stock!

Leeks come the allium family, its cousins are onions, garlic, scallions, even shallots and chives. Flavor-wise, home cooks love leeks for their gentle onion flavors, more delicate than the usual onions.

How to Clean Leeks

While growing, leeks gather grit inside the whorls so require careful cleaning before being chopped and cooked. Do take care with cleaning, otherwise you'll end up with a gritty sauce ...

How to Clean Leeks

STEP 1 First, wash the entire leek under running water. Slice off the root end and discard. Peel off one or two layers of the tough outer leaves and set aside. Now slice the leek in two, just at the point where the leaves turn dark, leaving a white and light-green stalk about six inches long. (This stalk is what recipes mean when calling for "leeks, white and light-green parts only".) Set aside the dark green leaves.

STEP 2 Cut the stalk in half, lengthwise. Gently separate the whorls, still keeping the stalk intact with your fingers. Wash the stalk under running water, letting water stream between the whorls. If the leek is particularly gritty, soak the whorls for a few minutes, then rinse again.

STEP 3 Now take a look at the big section of dark leaves set aside. If you peel back a layer or two of these dark leaves, you'll find still more white and light-green parts. Chop this up and use it for cooking, too.

Save the Leek Leaves for Stock

MAKE STOCK NOW! Wash the set-aside heavy outer leaves and the dark green leaves to make a very simple leek stock. For a more traditional stock, drop the leek leaves into water with a rib or two of celery, a carrot, a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and use for soup or any recipe calling for vegetable or even chicken stock. The stock can be frozen, too.

OR MAKE STOCK LATER! If you don't have time to make stock right away, let the leaves dry, then toss into a freezer bag.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Can Onions Be Substituted for Leeks? When leeks are combined with other ingredients, it makes sense that another onion-y vegetable would be a good substitute. But for a recipe called "Leek Sauce" which intentionally captures the lovely delicate flavors from leeks, no, please don't substitute onions and think you'll get the same results. That said, you might end up with a really good onion sauce, just not a leek sauce.

Where to Buy Leeks Look for leeks in the produce department, probably near the fresh greens. They're big, a foot long or even longer and are usually sold in bundles of two or three.

What About Frozen Leeks? Trader Joe's sells bags of frozen leek, they come pre-cleaned! I keep a bag in the freezer, it's so convenient for recipes which call for leeks along with other vegetables. That said, for this recipe, I'd definitely recommend fresh leeks.

Leek Sauce for Pasta, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, gently flavored leek sauce, dreamy for pasta. Just Five Ingredients, Just One Pot. Vegetarian. High Protein.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time-to-table: 40 minutes
Makes 1-1/2 cups sauce, plenty for 8 ounces of pasta
  • Big pot of well-salted water, enough for leeks and pasta both
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and trimmed (see how to clean leeks), yielding about 12 ounces white and light-green parts
  • 8 ounces penne pasta (see TIPS)
  • Cooked Leeks
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil (or another fresh herb, the inspiring recipe called for parsley, tarragon would be lovely)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Puréed Leeks
  • Partially Cooked Pasta
  • About 2 cups Pasta Water, 1/4 cup at a time
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan or another good cheese

COOK THE LEEKS Bring the water to a boil. After cleaning and trimming, cut the leeks in half lengthwise. (Check for grit, they might need another rinse.) Drop the leek pieces into the boiling water and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove the leeks from the water with a slotted spoon and rinse quickly under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze gently to remove the excess water, then transfer to a food processor for puréeing.

PARTIALLY COOK & DRAIN THE PASTA (SAVE SOME COOKING WATER) As soon as the leeks are cooked, return the water to a boil. Cook the pasta until about 3/4 done. Scoop about 2 cups of leek/pasta water out of the pot, then drain the pasta.

PURÉE THE LEEKS While the pasta cooks, in a food processor, combine the Cooked Leeks, lemon zest, basil, olive oil until soft and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

COMBINE In the same pot used for cooking the pasta, combine the Puréed Leeks and Partially Cooked Pasta. Cook on quite high heat, stirring often, until the pasta finishes cooking, adding Pasta Water, 1/4 cup at a time, when the sauce gets dry. The sauce should coat the pasta but still be slightly liquid since the cheese will thicken it. Add the Parmesan and cook for just another minute. Serve immediately.

ALANNA's TIPS I've learned to allow only two ounces of dried pasta per serving – just look at the calories to understand why – even though most recipes call for twice that. Calorie-wise, it's about where a serving should fall. Still, it's small by American standards and so I'd recommend serving this pasta with a big salad on the side so no one leaves the table hungry. It takes real will power, when pasta tastes this good, to eat a small portion. I recommend savoring every single (small) bite!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving (assumes 4): 332 Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 6mg Cholesterol; 121mg Sodium; 52g Carb; 3g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 11g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 7 & PointsPlus 9 & SmartPoints 10 & Freestyle 9 & myWW green 9 & blue 9 & purple 9
Leek Sauce for Pasta is adapted from Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables by Faith Willinger. My friend Anne from Kitchen Conservatory lent this cookbook some months ago, vowing that the leek sauce was a "must make". Was she ever right! I've now ordered my own copy, look for more recipes! (We love her Caponata – Sicilian Eggplant and Peperonata with Potatoes!)

Leek Lovers! More Recipes with Leeks

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Spring Stuffing with Leeks & Mushrooms Vichyssoise Cauliflower Risotto
~ more leek recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Steamed Leeks with Chopped Egg ~
~ Fennel, Leek & Mushroom Sautée ~
~ Leek & Root Vegetable Gratin ~
~ More Leek Recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2008, 2010 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous7/07/2008

    I'm new to your page and it, so far, has helped me feed my husband and myself a Weight Watchers safe meal.

    My question is, when serving pasta, if the recipe calls for 2 ounces pasta, is that cooked weight or dry?

    Keep those recipes coming. Just love those zero point soups.

  2. Hi Etie,

    Welcome! What a great clarification: I mean two ounces dry pasta, precooked.

    Come back often!

  3. Anonymous7/07/2008

    And it's not really oniony? The idea of an onion sauce is awful.

  4. When cooked, leeks turn creamy and only offer up a very gentle, sweet and perfectly delicious flavor. Oh I wish I could just hand you a forkful, right now, so you could taste for yourself!

  5. Anonymous8/17/2008

    Thanks for the method for this. I was looking for something similar, and yours made the most sense.
    I have a photo of the end result at my blog. Of course, I gave you credit :)

  6. Made it, ate it, loved it! This was my first time cooking with leeks and found this to be a deliciously easy recipe. Thanks!

  7. Anonymous9/28/2013

    i am making the leek sauce right now / i found your blog whilst googling soubise / i got a book from the library that is a spy novel / what a surprise to find an interesting recipe at the end of each chapter / the first one i try is Forsyth's Soubise (forsythe is a character in the book) / i had never known of a soubise before ! i had rice on hand not to mention vidalias, the right kind of cheese and heavy cream / this is delicious / then i came to your blog and as i say i am into the leek sauce now / great blog you have here / thanks


  8. Katherine ~ What a literary and culinary odyssey you are experiencing today! I'm so glad you shared your ride ...


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna