Baked Pasta With Leeks, Spinach, Bacon, and Cheddar
Published: January 26, 2011
This fragrant, rich, indulgent dish should be served on chilly nights to people you really, really like.
Ingredients (prices may vary):
8 oz. penne (or other small cut of pasta) $1 for 14 oz.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter $1 for a stick
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour pantry
1/2 cup half-and-half $1.50 for a pint
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese $3.50 for 8 oz.
salt and pepper pantry
2 strips thick-cut bacon (preferably uncured), diced $1
1/2 leek (white part only), cut lengthwise, then chopped $0.50
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves $1
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil pantry
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (as fresh as possible) $1.50 for 10 oz
Total Cost of Ingredients: $11
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Boil the pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water. Rinse, drain, and return to the pot.
While pasta cooks, melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a sticky dough. Slowly stir in the half-and-half to make a creamy white sauce. Stir in the cheese until it melts and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the cubed bacon until lightly crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the leeks and cook for 1-3 minutes or until soft, then add the spinach and cook until it wilts, 30 seconds-1 minute. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt (the bacon is salty, so go easy).
Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Toast the bread crumbs for 1-2 minutes, just until golden and crunchy.
To assemble, gently stir together the pasta, cheese sauce, and leek-bacon-spinach mixture. Use a rubber scraper/spatula to transfer the mixture to four ovenproof bowls or ramekins (or use a large casserole dish). Sprinkle evenly with toasted breadcrumbs.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.
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