At first I was skeptical of this one pan cooking technique for pasta. It is quite the opposite of the received wisdom on pasta cooking, which calls for lots of water. Putting the new method to the test, I discovered it works perfectly and results in a delicious dish. As a bonus, it’s a thrifty use of water and time, precious resources, both in the cooking and for cleaning up.
For the pasta, I like bucatini, toothsome, spaghetti-like strands with a hole all down the middle, which helps hold extra sauce. In bucatini with leeks, that usually unassuming allium shines as a sturdy-yet-tender green. With sweet, young corn kernels, lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a fistful of fresh parsley, and a whole lemon’s worth of zest stirred in at the end, you have a humble yet glamorous dinner.
In addition to its ease and quickness of preparation (less than 15 minutes cooking time), one pan pasta offers a generosity of variation possibilities: As well as strand pastas, other shapes, shells, bow ties, and so on, plump up tender and succulent. Seasonal vegetable variations abound. If it’s not the time for fresh corn, omit it altogether. Other summer choices include fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, green beans, fresh fava beans, nettles, summer squash, to name a few. To make a festive presentation, shellfish, such as mussels, clams, and/or shrimp, can be added and steamed on top for the final minutes of cooking. It’s definitely a dish that piques the imagination and invites play.
Serves 2 to 3
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium (about 5 ounces) leek, trimmed, white and light green part cut lengthwise into 2-inch long slivers, and rinsed
Kernels from 1 ear of fresh corn (about 3/4 cup)
3 to 4 ounces bucatini, or similar strand pasta, such as linguine, fettucini, or spaghetti
4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Large pinch each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 cups water, depending on the shape of the pan
4 ounces Parmesan or similar hard cheese, freshly shredded using the large holes of a box grater (1 full cup)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Zest of 1 medium organic lemon
1. Combine the olive oil, leek, corn kernels, bucatini, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and water in a large skillet (break the bucatini in half to fit and lie flat). Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring once or twice. Lower the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring from time to time and adding a little water if necessary, until the pasta is al dente, 11 to 13 minutes depending on the brand.
2. Add the cheese, parsley, and zest and toss to mix. Serve right away.
Food Styling by Victoria and Rick Wise
Photography by Rick Wise