Summer's Best Potluck Dish: Three Bean Salad

Smoky & Creamy Baked Leek and Mushroom Pasta

This easy bechamel sauce gets a flavor boost from smoky cheddar, creating the perfect sauce to coat the pasta, mushrooms and sweet leeks. A crunchy herb flecked streusel sits atop for the ultimate comfort dish. The entire thing can be made ahead and baked to serve, making it an excellent cool weather meal to feed a crowd.

Smoky & Creamy Baked Leek and Mushroom Pasta

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
This easy bechamel sauce gets a flavor boost from smoky cheddar, creating the perfect sauce to coat the pasta, mushrooms and sweet leeks. A crunchy herb flecked streusel sits atop for the ultimate comfort dish. The entire thing can be made ahead and baked to serve, making it an excellent cool weather meal to feed a crowd.
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Servings 8

Ingredients
 

  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 ounces mixed mushrooms, such as portobello, cremini, maitake, or oyster, roughly chopped
  • ½ ounce medium leeks
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded on a box grater
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided use
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as rigatoni or cavatelli

For the topping

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 325 F, and butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
    Warm the olive oil in a large skillet and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the mushrooms and a half teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked through, another 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat.
  • While the mushrooms are cooking, pour a cup of boiling hot water over the porcini mushrooms in a bowl, and let them rehydrate for 10-15 minutes. Pull the porcini mushrooms from the liquid, coarsely chop, and add them to the pan with the mushrooms and leeks. Reserve ½ cup of the soaking liquid from the porcini, and pour it into a liquid measuring cup or bowl together with the milk.
  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the garlic, cooking on low heat for a minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Do not let it brown. Switch to a whisk, then slowly pour the milk mixture into the pot while stirring to avoid lumps. Raise the heat to medium, and whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook without stirring for another minute or two until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions in plenty of salted water, until al dente (since the pasta will cook more in the oven, boil it shy of 2 minutes according to when it will be finished). Drain the pasta and dump it back into it's pot.
  • Pour the bechamel into the pot with the pasta and stir to coat., then add the mushrooms and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. Pour into a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking dish. The pasta can be refrigerated it at this point up to 8 hours before baking.
  • For the topping, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and salt together in a small bowl, then work in the butter with your hands. Scatter over the pasta evenly, then place dish in the preheated 325 degree oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is toasted and it is warm throughout.
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