Ugly Duckling: Pappardelle with Slow-Braised Leeks and Porcini Pangrattato

Alright, so this is not the prettiest pasta at the party, but it is SO delicious I couldn't care less. I swear Jamie Oliver is a culinary genius.

Pangrattato is the crunchy breadcrumb topping sprinkled on right before serving. I remember hearing that it was created out of frugality long ago as a substitute for cheese. This stuff gives the dish an unusual kick (it's great on risotto too).

While the plate looks plain, there are many complex flavours and textures swirling around. There's the intense aromas of garlic, wine, mushrooms and thyme, then the salt of the proscuitto, the velvet silkiness of pasta and sweet leeks, and the crunch of the pangrattato. There's tons going on but it's somehow both contrasting and harmonious at the same time. Need I say more to convince you to try this? No?

Well, here's the recipe...

But one more note on leeks. They're one of the dirtiest vegetables you can buy from the produce stand. To clean leeks:
-cut off the dark leaves and take a thin slice off the root end. Peel off the tough, dark outer layer
-split the leek down lengthwise
-rinse under running water, leaves side down, opening the layers up to get most of the grit out (so you don't ruin your knife trying to chop through sand)
-slice into ribbons (or as your recipe calls for them)
-soak in a bowl of cold water, separating the layers. This will allow and remaining sand and dirt to fall to the bottom
-remove the leeks with a strainer

Cheat's Pappardelle with Slow-Braised Leeks and Crispy Porcini Pangrattato


  • 5 big leeks, outer leaves trimmed back, washed
  • Olive oil
  • 3 good knobs butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • A few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • A small wineglass white wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (Omit the salt if the ham is salty)
  • 1 pint good-quality vegetable or chicken stock
  • 12 slices ham, preferably Parma
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages fresh lasagne sheets (I cooked dried pappardelle instead)
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving


  • 1 small handful dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 ciabatta bread, preferably stale, cut into chunks
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary


Halve the leeks lengthways and cut at an angle into 1/2-inch slices. Heat a wide saucepan, add a splash of oil and a knob of butter, and when you hear a gentle sizzling add the sliced garlic, thyme leaves and leeks. Move the leeks around so every piece gets coated. Pour in the wine, season with pepper and stir in the stock. Cover the leeks with the slices of Parma ham, place a lid on the pan and cook gently for 25 to 30 minutes. Once the leeks are tender, take the pan off the heat.

To make the pangrattato:

Whiz the mushrooms and bread with a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic cloves and the rosemary and cook for a minute, then fry the bread crumbs in the oil until golden and crisp. Keep shaking the pan - don't let the bread crumbs catch on the bottom. Drain on paper towels, discard the rosemary and garlic and allow the bread crumbs to cool.

Bring a big pan of salted water to the boil. Lay the lasagne sheets on a clean working surface and sprinkle with a little flour. Place the sheets on top of each other and slice into 1/2-inch strips. Toss through your fingers to shake out the pappardelle, then cook in the boiling water 2 minutes or until al dente.

Remove the Parma ham from the saucepan, slice up and stir back into the leeks. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the Parmesan and the rest of the butter. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the leeks. Add a little of the cooking water if need be, to give you a silky, smooth sauce. Serve quickly, sprinkled with some pangrattato, extra Parmesan and any leftover thyme tips. Serve the rest of the pangrattato in a bowl on the side.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network and Jamie at Home
Image property of beets and bites

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