Tuesday, May 30, 2006

BLT Pasta Bake: Bacon, Leeks and Tomatoes

From Rachael Ray: 365 No Repeats

Coarse salt
1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi (corkscrew pasta)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots and dark green tops
coarse black pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
3 C whole milk
1 C chicken stock or broth
3 1/2 C grated Gruyere cheese
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 C plain bread crumbs

Place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water reaches a boil, add some salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the EVOO and chopped bacon and cook until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, split the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise, lay the leeks cut side down, and thinly slice into half-moons. Fill a large bowl with water and mix the leeks into the water. Allow the water to settle and the dirt and grit to settle to the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands, draw the leeks from the water, taking care not to unsettle the dirt. Drain the cleaned leeks on a kitchen towel, pat dry, and then add to the pan with the bacon. Season the leeks with salt and pepper. Cook the leeks until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

To start the cheese sauce, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then add the flour, cayenne, and paprika and whisk together over the heat until the roux bubbles; cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in the milk and stock and raise the heat a little. Bring the sauce to a quick boil and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in 3 cups of grated cheese and the mustard. Set aside

Add the cherry tomatoes to the leeks and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Preheat the broiler.

Drain the pasta and add it back to the pasta pot. Combine reserved leek mixture and the cheese sauce with the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Combine the remaining grated cheese with the bread crumbs. Top the pasta with the mixture. Place the dish under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are brown.

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