Pasta Baked with Potatoes and Leeks

October 31, 2007

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Leeks and potatoes are an almost magical combination. Bake them with pasta and cheese, and you have the ultimate comfort food. SAM

1 pound new potatoes (4 medium)
1 pound onions, thinly sliced (2 medium)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium leeks
1 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin seed
4 ounces small pasta [curls, oriechetti, macaroni]
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch gratin dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, cool, and roughly chop.

Trim away the heavy green ends of the leeks. Leaving the roots intact, slice the leeks into quarters from roots to tips. Rinse under running water and place upside-down in a sieve in a large bowl of cold water. Soak for 30 minutes or until free of sand and dirt. Chop into 1-inch pieces.

In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon oil for 15 minutes. Add the leeks, raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes more. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the cumin and sauté until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.

Boil the pasta in lightly salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, and stir into the onions and leeks. Add the potatoes, crème fraîche, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Turn into the prepared casserole and top with the remaining 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned.
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.