Leek Carbonara Recipe

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Eating from the Ground Up Recipes for Simple, Perfect VegetablesPanfried BrusselsThere are a few essential things I always try to keep in the house that make me feel like I have everything covered. I always need to have a few extra rolls of toilet paper and a full bottle of dishwashing liquid under the sink. When it comes to groceries, I try to shop so carbonara is always an option, no matter the circumstances—it’s saved dinnertime on more occasions than I can count. I love to add a vegetable to the perfect mix of bacon, pasta, and egg to make it a one-bowl dinner. Greens, asparagus, even tomatoes have been great, but this one is a favorite, with long strings of sweet boiled leek tangled in with the pasta. It makes the whole dish lighter, sweeter, and so lovely to look at. Leeks are often used as a base for other dishes, but this recipe gives them their own moment. When you boil them, they turn a bright grassy green, and the root is tender and delicious all the way through. Try to have all of your ingredients ready to go when you begin, as this dish comes together all at once.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces slab or sliced bacon (4 to 6 slices), cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 large leeks
  • Vinegar
  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 large eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
How to Make It
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Simultaneously, heat your largest skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bacon in the skillet, stirring often, until it’s crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a small bowl. Leave the bacon fat in the pan and set aside.
  2. Trim the root and the toughest green top from the leeks. (This will vary by leek, but tends to be about 3 inches from the top of each leek.) Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then in half again, repeating this until you have long, spaghetti-like slices of leek. Transfer the leeks to a bowl, cover with water, and add a splash of vinegar to help remove the dirt from the leeks. Let them sit for a few minutes and drain, giving them a rinse to make sure there’s no remaining dirt.
  3. When the water boils, add the pasta. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the leeks. Continue to cook until the pasta is tender and the leeks are bright green, 3 to 4 more minutes. Pour a few cups of the pasta water into a smaller pot set over medium-low heat (you’ll use this to poach the eggs), then drain the pasta and leeks in a colander.
  4. Return the reserved skillet of bacon fat to medium-high heat. Add the butter, then whisk in about ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Add the pasta, leeks, Parmesan, cooked bacon, and three-quarters of the tarragon to the skillet, gently tossing until the pasta and leeks are fully coated in the sauce. Divide the pasta evenly among four plates or bowls.
  5. Crack an egg into a ramekin or teacup. Pour off the most watery part of the white and give the small pot of reserved pasta-cooking water a little swirl to get the water moving. Gently slide the egg into the water and cook until the white is firm, 2½ minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lay the egg over one of the bowls of pasta. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Top with the rest of the tarragon, lots of pepper, and a bit of extra Parmesan.

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