Pesto was the ideal way to preserve the big pile of wild leeks I foraged at the weekend. There's a fresh garlicky flavour to them that's nicely balanced by the sweetness and rich savoury flavour of the parmesan cheese. That, combined with the smoked bacon lardons, makes for a tasty bowl of food. This recipe will make enough pesto for several portions, so put any left overs in a jar and it will keep for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. You could alternatively use fresh pasta instead of dried, in which case measure out 150 g per portion.
- 2 tsp butter
- 180 g dried tagliatelle pasta
- 350 g wild leeks
- 40 g pine nuts
- 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 50 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 150 g extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g smoked bacon lardons
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- vegetable oil, for cooking
To make the pesto: firstly, roast the pine nuts in a dry pan or place under a grill until lightly browned, then set aside to cool. Wash the leeks thoroughly in cold water and remove any of the round fruit (they have a gummy texture and are not nice to eat). Cut off the flowers and the little roots from the bulbs and discard. Take a small handful of leeks and set them aside for later, then roughly chop the remainder and place in a blender along with the garlic. Add the olive oil, and blend until you have a coarse paste. Add the pine nuts and continue blending until they're roughly chopped. Add the parmesan cheese and blend until just combined. Transfer the pesto into a bowl and give it a taste. Add some salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, and while it's cooking, fry the bacon in a little vegetable oil until crisp then set aside in a bowl. Add the handful of leeks you set aside earlier to the pan you cooked the bacon in, and add the butter. Gently sauté the leeks over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until tender.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, making sure to reserve some of the pasta water. Put the pasta back into the pan, along with 60 g of the pesto. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta water and mix thoroughly until you have a nice sauce consistency. Serve in a bowl with the sautéed leeks and the bacon lardons on top.