Many moons ago now, when I lived in California, I worked at a branding agency, where I met the most wonderful people. One of them, Shea McGee, now runs an interior design company, Studio McGee, with her husband, Syd. If you are a fan of bright, cheerful spaces and faces, you should follow them on Instagram and subscribe to their blog—Studio McGee is pure joy.
But today, they’re cooking! For Valentine’s Day dinner at home, they’re making this bucatini carbonara with leeks and lemon, an adaptation of a longtime favorite recipe here on AK. If you’re still looking for something to make for dinner tonight, this one couldn’t be simpler to throw together: cook bacon, reserve the fat, use the fat to cook leeks; boil pasta, toss with eggs, fresh lemon juice, grated parmesan, and a little bit of pasta cooking liquid. Toss it all together, add some fresh parsley, and serve with more parmesan and lots of pepper. That’s it!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone.
Shea and Syd McGee of Studio McGee:
Notes: For a saucier pasta, use ½ pound pasta. I like saucy, so I always use 1/2 lb. but original recipe calls for 12 oz., and if you are feeding more mouths, know that 12 oz. works just fine—you may want to reserve extra pasta-cooking liquid for saucing purposes.
To clean leeks: Place the sliced leeks in a large bowl filled with cold water. Do this as the bacon cooks. After about 10 minutes, lift the leeks out of the bowl with your hands and transfer to a colander—this allows the dirt that has settled to the bottom of the bowl to stay settled. When transferring the leeks to the sauté pan, be sure the bacon fat isn’t super hot—remove the pan from the heat. It’s OK if the leeks are still wet—a little water clinging to the leeks is a good thing.
This has been a longtime favorite recipe here on AK—here’s the original recipe. You can make it with short pasta, too, but I’ve been loving this bucatini. And in regard to Valentine’s Day, somehow bucatini feels more special than short, stubby shapes.
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 4 leeks, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, and rinsed (see notes above)
- 1/2 to ¾ pound bucatini or short pasta, such as campanelle, orecchiette, or gemelli (see notes)
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup (heaping) grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Set a large pot of salted water (I use about a tablespoon of kosher salt) to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving excess fat in pan—you should have about 2 tablespoons. Add leeks (see notes above), season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, until leeks are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, parmesan, lemon zest and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture.
- Drain pasta and immediately add to egg mixture, along with bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. If necessary, add more of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to taste. Sprinkle pasta with more cheese if desired and serve immediately.