Recipe: Farro Spaghetti with Leeks

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This dish can be as easy or as involved as you like, depending on whether you feel like making your own spaghetti or if you buy some at the store. The point of this particular plate of pasta is to bring winter into springtime: a little deep and rich, a little bright and fresh. It's best done when spring is making an attempt at overthrowing winter, when you can get fresh leeks, fresh parsley and, if you're lucky, new green garlic.

Always use an earthy pasta. My version uses homemade spaghetti alla chitarra made with farro flour I got online from my friend Scott at Sausage Debauchery. Don't have a chitarra? No biggie, use the tagliolini setting on your pasta machine (it's the thin one on the other side of the fettucine cutter). Don't have a pasta machine? Roll your own, flour it well and slice thin with a very sharp knife. All this sound like too much work? Go buy whole wheat spaghetti—it'll be fine.

The sauce require a few minutes to come together, and then you add a bunch of stuff at the end, so have everything ready.

Serves 4
    • 4 to 6 leeks
    • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
    • 2 green garlic stalks or 4 cloves garlic
    • 4 or 5 anchovies, preserved in salt or oil
    • ½ cup white wine
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • salt and black pepper
    • lots of grated pecorino cheese for garnish
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • an earthy pasta, such as homemade farro spaghetti

Slice off the tops of the leeks where they start branching. Use the green tops for stock some other time. Mince the light green parts, and when you get to the white part, slice the leek in half lengthwise. Now slice the halves into thin half-moons, about 1/16 inch thick. Keep the green parts separate from the white parts.

Do the same with the green garlic, if you have it, only keep about an inch of the darker green and mince that, too.

Put a large kettle of water on the heat. Salt it until it tastes like the sea.

Get the olive oil hot over medium-high heat in a sauce pot, then add the anchovies, with a little of the oil if they were preserved in olive oil. Mash them up and stir them around.

Add the white part of the leeks and drop the heat to medium. Stir and let cook until soft without browning, about five minutes.

Chop the garlic cloves if using or add the white part of the green garlic. Cook for two minutes, then turn the heat up to high and add the white wine.

Let the wine reduce by half, then drop the heat to medium again and add the honey. Let this cook until syrupy, about five to eight minutes.

Meanwhile, your pasta water ought to be boiling, so add the spaghetti. If you are using freshly made pasta, wait to do this until your sauce has already become syrupy.

When the pasta is done, add the parsley, light green parts of the leeks, and green parts of the green garlic, if using, to the cooked white parts of the leeks. Toss in a bit of pecorino cheese to thicken and stir well until the parsley is wilted. Turn off the heat.

Move the pasta directly into the pot with the sauce and, using tongs. mix well. Serve immediately with black pepper and the rest of the pecorino cheese.

To read about how Hank prepares his pasta with a traditional chitarra, click here.

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Hank Shaw runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. More

A former line cook, veteran political reporter, and fisherman, Hank Shaw is a freelance food writer who runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which chronicles Shaw's search for what he calls the Forgotten Feast: The seasonal foods--mostly wild--we once delighted in, but are now curiosities at best. Game, wild mushrooms, seafood, and wild plants all have a place in modern cooking, and Shaw spends his days exploring their possibilities on the plate.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook was nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in both 2009 and 2010 and by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. His work has appeared in magazines such as The Art of Eating, Field & Stream, and Gastronomica. He hunts, fishes, forages, and gardens in Northern California with his girlfriend--and photographer--Holly A. Heyser.
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