Penne with Leeks and Bacon

I think this is nicest made with the larger type of pasta called penne, but macaroni is almost as good. You can vary this by using all kinds of different ingredients, such as onions or sliced sautéed courgettes in place of leeks. Or by adding 4 oz (110 g) of sautéed sliced mushrooms and using less bacon.

Serves 4

Penne with Leeks and Bacon
 12 oz (350g) penne or macaroni
 3 small leeks, cleaned and chopped
 6 oz (175 g) streaky bacon, de-rinded and chopped
 olive oil
 2 oz (50 g) butter
For the sauce:
 2 oz (50 g) butter
 2 oz (50 g) plain flour
 1½ pints (850 ml) milk
 6 oz (175 g) Cheddar cheese, grated
 3 fl oz (75 ml) double cream
 freshly grated nutmeg
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the topping:
 2 level tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
 1 level tablespoon breadcrumbs
 2 pinches cayenne pepper
You will also need a 3 pint (1.7 litre) pie dish, well buttered.


Start by bringing a large saucepan of water to simmering point, add some salt, a few drops of olive oil and the pasta, then bring back to the boil and cook for 10 minutes exactly.

Then turn the pasta into a colander and, to prevent it cooking any further, rinse it under the cold tap.

While the pasta's cooking, melt the butter in a pan and soften the leeks and bacon over a low heat and, in another pan, make the white sauce with the butter, flour and milk and leave it to simmer very gently. Now turn the pasta, leeks and bacon into the prepared pie dish and mix them well together.

Next stir the grated cheese into the sauce, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg and, finally, add the cream.

Then pour the sauce over the ingredients in the pie dish, sprinkle the top with the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and cayenne pepper.

This is a dish which can be prepared well beforehand then, when it's needed, put into an oven pre-heated to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes till the top is nicely browned and the sauce bubbling.

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