Spaghetti with Creamy Mushroom, Leek & Pancetta Sauce

08 Aug

I only discovered leeks a few years ago, on a rainy afternoon lunch break where I dashed into a local Starbucks for a caramel macchiato.

In my haste and my desperation, I needed something quick and easy to eat on the way back to work. The only thing left in the barren looking refrigerator case was a lovely golden pie, with a perfect, buttery puff pastry top that I claimed with my eyes while standing in line…and I was prepared to shoot death stares at anyone who dared step in on my pie.

Now,Β  I was skeptical. Skeptical about the pie. Skeptical about the coffee. Skeptical about the barista with chipped nail polish and a bad attitude, but I didn’t have time to starve, so I bought the pie, not even knowing what was in it and dashed into the rain back to my car.

This was my first taste of leek, in particular, chicken and leek together. I’m not particularly proud that it happened courtesy of Starbucks, wet bedraggled hair and scoffing lunch in my car, the windows steamed up while I hungrily watched the clock and dug in to the crispy, buttery puff pastry and creamy chicken and leek filling. I was impressed. And my fascination with leek grew from there.

I remember actually Googling ‘leeks’ when I got home later that night, curious why I had always walked past this vegetable and never given it the time of day. I suppose because my mother and grandmother had never really cooked with it, I had never been introduced to it.

Nowadays, leeks are a staple in my fridge – I love that they are so versatile, can be used in anything from soups to stocks, stews to pies and they seem to last for ages too….great for time-poor people who don’t have the luxury of being able to shop regularly.

Ever the helpful pal that I am, I have rustled up some info on leeks….just so you know. Here it is…

  • The leek is related to both the garlic and the onion, with a sweeter, yet more subtle flavour.
  • The smaller the leek, the more tender it will be
  • It’s important to rinse leeks thoroughly, washing out any accumulated dirt and gunk from between the leaves. Most recipes call for the white part to be used only. The outer leaves tend to be more woody and bitter.
  • The leek is known to have anti-bacterial properties as well as being a source of iron, vitamin B6 and folate (the stuff that’s very important for babymaking).

A few notes about this recipe:

  • My measurements served approximately 2, so adjust accordingly if you need to.
  • The pancetta can be substituted with prosciutto or bacon…or omitted entirely for vegetarians.
  • If you’ve had One Of Those Days (OOTD) at work, add 1/4 cup white wine to the sauce so you have an excuse to stand there and take a swig from the bottle while your husband isn’t looking.
  • You can use fettuccine, penne, tortellini or even gnocchi for this recipe instead of good old underrated spaghetti.
  • If you’re watching your weight, you can substitute the cream with evaporate milk….but I don’t like your chances of it being as tasty!


  • 300g dried spaghetti
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic/2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 large brown onion, diced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 300g button mushrooms
  • 50g pancetta, sliced into strips
  • 150ml thickened cream
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • freshly shaved parmesan, to serve


  1. Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling water according to packet instructions or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Drop in half of the butter and olive oil (to prevent the butter burning) and add garlic, onion, leek and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms and leeks are soft.
  3. Add the pancetta and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, then pour in thickened cream and stir well. If you’re adding wine, one swig for you and one for the pan, now.
  4. Add spring onion and then reduce heat to medium-low and cook gently for another 8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste, now!
  5. To serve, distribute spaghetti amongst bowls, top with sauce and freshly shaved parmesan.

3 responses to “Spaghetti with Creamy Mushroom, Leek & Pancetta Sauce

  1. Chanel

    August 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    My first taste of leek was potato and leek soup – just last night I threw some leeks into a feta omelette and it was delish – now I also have a leek pasta dish to consider πŸ™‚

  2. Fiona

    August 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    This looks SO good – can’t wait to make it. Nice to hear from you again. πŸ™‚

  3. Kevin

    June 16, 2012 at 7:28 am

    varietions on a theme, use streaky smoked bacon frying first. Add brown mushrooms. Green part of the leeks should also be used trying not to cook too long, tender but retaining some bite. Goes with any pasta especially papperdelle or linguine. Instead of cream use soft cheese,garlic and herb roule. Toss the sauce into the pasta, before serving immediately


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