It’s snowing today, which is great news for me because I’m going to cook one of my favorite lunches, Feta Bowtie Pasta with Leeks and Pancetta. It’s such a simple dish to make, so I use it as a quick recipe for parties and holiday meals, but every once in a while I get to make a giant bowl of pasta just for me, and today is that day.
The ingredient list for this recipe is short and sweet — luckily I picked some leeks up last weekend at the Fort Collins Winter Farmer’s Market from Native Hill Farm, and other than that all you’ll need is a bottle of Girard’s Champagne dressing (I use the light version), some baby spinach, feta cheese, cubed pancetta, bowtie pasta, butter, some kosher salt, and the leftover golden raisins from when you made your Homemade Clif Bars. I like using bowtie, or farfalle, pasta because it seems to hold the sauce a little better than other pastas, and gives you a little more “bang per bite”.
Go ahead and start by putting your raisins and pasta on to boil, in separate pots of course. Boiling your raisins makes them soft and gooey and is totally worth the extra pot you’ll have to wash later.
If you’ve never cooked with leeks before, there’s a couple of things you need to know. The first is that you won’t be using the entire leek, unless you happened to buy leeks already trimmed. If not, you’ll want to cut off the dark green parts and the roots before you get started chopping these babies up — just find where the leek starts going from light green to dark green and cut.
Leeks are also notoriously dirty. Now, I’m not here to claim that I rinse all of vegetables (who has time for that?), but I always rinse my leeks — ALWAYS. See that dirt in between the layers above? That stuff is the quickest way to ruin your pasta dish, and probably lose friends in the process. Unless you’re not sharing, which I wouldn’t hold against you.
An easy way to get that dirt out is to simply cut your trimmed leeks in half length-wise and then rinse them in cold water. It takes just a few extra minutes and it makes a world of difference.
As with any vegetable that you’re slicing, you want to make sure your leek slices are evenly cut. I prefer mine thin, but not on the paper-thin side. You don’t want your leeks to burn while you’re trying to caramelize them.
I like cubed pancetta in this dish because it means I don’t have to cut any meat up (I’m all about the quick fix) and it’s a delicious alternative to bacon. Pancetta is a cured pork and doesn’t have the smoky flavor that bacon has, however it would be perfectly acceptable to use bacon in its place if you’re not able to find any pancetta at your local grocer. Keep in mind that pancetta is RAW MEAT, so treat it as such — wash your hands after you handle it, don’t eat it raw, don’t rub it on your face, etc. Hey, I don’t know what you do in your own kitchen.
After you get your leeks chopped up, toss some butter into a frying pan and throw that pancetta in there. Like bacon, pancetta will make its own grease and once it mixes with your butter, it’s heaven waiting to happen. Cook your pancetta, stirring often, about 5 minutes to begin the browning process then add your sliced leeks to the mix and enjoy the aroma that is now taking over your kitchen. You want to soften the leeks up and give them some time to caramelize, but be careful not to burn them — if you’re cooking a little fast, just turn the heat down.
Get a big ‘ole bowl out, get your pasta off the stove, drain the water and combine your warm pasta and feta cheese in your bowl. The warm pasta is going to melt the cheese a little as you mix it and if you’re a cheese fan like me, you’ll have a hard time not just eating the pasta now.
Side note, if you have a large, clear glass bowl, this is the recipe to use it. I had a wonderful bowl that was perfect for showing off my pastas and salads, but gave it to my sister back in Texas because I’m a fool! If you don’t have a clear bowl, get one — they are the best for impressing your friends and you can use them for so many dishes.
After you get that cheese all mixed in, add the rest of your ingredients and toss your pasta salad around a bit.
Now I have some bad news for you: You can’t eat your pasta yet. I know, I’m sorry, I should have started with that, but then you might not have made this amazing pasta that is absolutely worth the wait. So as much as it pains me to say this, I’m going to need you to cover your bowl of pasta, stick it in the fridge, and forget about it until tomorrow. But tomorrow, well tomorrow is going to bring absolute perfection to your life, I promise.
While you’re waiting for your pasta flavors to meld as they sleep together overnight, head over to Colorado Beer Girl and read all about great Colorado beers, breweries, and more! When you do eat your pasta tomorrow, try it with an Avalanche from Breckenridge Brewery, you won’t be disappointed.
- 1 lb. of bowtie pasta
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1½ cups of feta crumbles
- 1 cup of golden raisins
- 1 cup or to taste of Champagne or Martinique Vinaigrette salad dressing
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half, then sliced cross ways
- 3 oz. diced pancetta
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- Kosher salt
- Add raisins to boiling water, boil gently for 10 minutes, then drain.
- Add butter to a large, heavy frying pan on medium-high heat.
- Boil pasta according to directions.
- Drain and put the pasta in a large bowl with cheese while the pasta is still hot.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and toss with the salad dressing.
- Let chill over night, to let the flavors meld and sleep together.