Buttery leeks and salty pancetta tossed in a creamy sauce with your favourite pasta. The crunchy lemon herb breadcrumbs really take this dish to the next level.
Just like my Lemon Kale Pasta and Vodka Pasta with Sausage, this creamy pasta with leeks and pancetta is like fancy comfort food. The leeks add a buttery sophistication which goes so well with the salty pancetta. And the crispy lemon breadcrumbs top it off with the perfect amount of crunch.
I love topping my pasta dishes with breadcrumbs to add texture and flavour.
This deliciously creamy leek pasta dish is perfect for that transition period as spring starts. The weather is still cool enough that I crave hearty dishes but I’m moving away from soups and stews and want to incorporate some spring vegetables into my weekly menu.
I use a pack of pancetta cubes for this leek pasta which are easily available in most supermarkets. They typically come in packs of two 150g portions. I prefer the flavour of smoked pancetta but you can also used unsmoked if you prefer. Bacon is a great substitute and I have also enjoyed this recipe with leftover Coca-Cola Ham.
You can also use thin slices of pancetta but modify the cooking process slightly to avoid overcooking. Fry off the pancetta slices whole until crispy then remove from the pan before adding the leeks. Drain on kitchen paper until the pasta is almost ready, then dice the crispy pancetta strips and add back to the pan with the pasta.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Leeks – Trim the roots and tough green stems (save them for vegetable stock) then slice in half lengthways and thinly slice into small half moon slices. Make sure to rinse the diced leeks thoroughly as they tend to hold a lot of dirt and grit.
- Pasta – I like to use a short pasta shape like rigatoni or fusilli, but most pasta shapes will work.
- Pancetta – see above. You can also use bacon or leftover ham.
- Cream – For a lighter sauce, use cream cheese instead of heavy cream or simply leave out the cream and use a little more pasta water to create a sauce to coat the pasta. Use a plant-based cream for a dairy free version. Skip the parmesan or use a plant-based cheese.
- Breadcrumbs – Blitz bread that is past its best in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Toast them in a warm pan with a drizzle of olive oil until golden. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon zest, grated parmesan, dried parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper to make Lemon Herb Breadcrumbs.
Serving and Storing
- Serve with an Easy Green Salad or some garlic bread to mop up that delicious creamy sauce.
- Leek and Pancetta Pasta is best served freshly cooked, but leftovers can be stored for up to 3 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
- Reheat in the microwave until piping hot – you may need to add a splash of water to loosen the sauce.
- I don’t recommend freezing this recipe – the sauce will separate and become grainy when thawed and the pasta may get mushy.
More Easy Pasta Recipes:
- Tuna Pasta Bake with Leeks and Cheddar
- Creamy Chicken and Broccolli Pasta
- Pepperoni Pasta Bake
- Creamy Sausage Kale Pasta
Creamy Leek and Pancetta Pasta
- 160 grams pasta
- 150 grams pancetta cubes
- 2 leeks trimmed and sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and black pepper
- ¼ cup double or heavy cream 60ml
Lemon Herb Breadcrums
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- pinch salt and black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente according to packet instructions. Reserve a cup of cooking water before draining.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add the breadcrumbs. Toast, stirring lightly until golden. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan, lemon zest and parsley with pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Add a tablespoon of oil to the warm pan and add the pancetta. Fry for 3-4 minutes until beginning to crisp then add the leeks.
- Allow to simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes until the leeks are soft and beginning to caramelise. Stir in the cream with a pinch of salt and black pepper and bring to a simmer.
- Add the pasta to the pan with about 2 tablespoons of pasta cooking water. Stir to combine and add more pasta water if needed to make a glossy sauce which coats the pasta.
- Top with the breadcrumbs to serve (and more cheese if you like!)