Mark Bittman, “The Minimalist” is in some ways, my food idol. He’s funny, clever, sophisticated and has found a way to inspire people to make enticing food, in a quick, simple, approachable, and well, minimal way. Those minimal ones are the recipes that end up getting passed around through families, from aunts to nieces, to friends and co-workers. The best recipes are the ones that turn out shockingly delicious and impressive and you don’t feel bad handing it over to your friend who never cooks because you know even she can pull this one off.
The only problem that I have with the “minimal” recipes, is that I can’t leave them alone. I’m always thinking about what else I could do to it. I’ve watched the video of Mark Bittman making this “Creamy Leek and Garlic Pesto” a few times. I’ve been fascinated by it’s simplicity and curious about it’s flavors. It seemed to combine two of my most favorite ways to serve pasta, with carbonara or with pesto. And of course, I had to make it MY way, which was to add peas, red onion, Parmesan, and a hell of a lot more bacon.
Spaghetti with Peas, Bacon and Carbonara Pesto
- 12 ounces Applewood Smoked bacon, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 large leeks trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup peas
- Black pepper
- 16 ounces spaghetti (gluten-free brown rice spaghetti if necessary)
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan with tongs and drain it on paper towels. Drain and reserve all but 2 tablespoons of oil form the skillet.
Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic, leeks and onion to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 20 minutes. If the pan seems too dry and the vegetables are sticking, add some of the reserved bacon fat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Transfer the cooked garlic, leeks and onions to a food processor with the egg, parsley and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
In the same skillet over medium heat, add the peas, cook for a few minutes and remove from heat. Return the purée to the skillet with the peas in it.
Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until it’s tender but still firm to the bite, then drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the leek mixture to medium, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid to thin the pesto, and toss in the pasta and half of the bacon, adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve pasta on plates and sprinkle with remaining bacon.