While cooking, listen to this: Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy - Queen
My year in Jerusalem was...interesting, to say the least. When I look back on that year I think of terrorist attacks, freezing cold buildings (it's as if the entire city forgets that winter is a thing that happens every. single. year) and the beginning of what would be a very long, very intense journey ending with leaving rabbinical school. There was also the boyfriend who thought I would be happy in a California suburb with our three children, but that's another story.
So, yeah. Especially compared to my year in Tel Aviv, I kind of hated living in Jerusalem. I do have to credit that year with one thing, though: my love of experimenting in the kitchen.
We had a LOT of time during my program. Sure, Monday through Thursday saw us in the same giant, freezing library for eight hours at a time, but outside of those hours we were on our own. This left us plenty of time for drinking, fleeing to Tel Aviv, drinking, exploring the city and drinking.
For me, it also left plenty of time to experiment with recipes I had always wanted to make but didn't have the confidence to try. Meringues, for example, and lemon curd. Things that are now quite easy for me to make (and you, too! they're super easy!), but at the time required a little push to try out.
Jerusalem also has a pretty amazing food scene. Israel in general has unreal food, but the restaurants in Jerusalem are like, great. Everything from sushi to Italian to French to Ethiopian to, duh, Mediterranean, can be eaten there. One night I went with a couple friends to an Italian place where we shared a few dishes, one of which was pappardelle with leeks and sweet potatoes. It was divine. Like, it was so stellar that it made me forget that God is dead but the patriarchy is alive and well. And I think about those things all the time!
With my newly-minted kitchen confidence, I wanted to recreate the pasta at home - Jerusalem isn't New York- or Tel Aviv-level expensive, but it is not that cheap. I looked online for a bit of help and came across a very similar recipe by How Sweet Eats. Her recipe uses butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes and adds bacon, but everything else is pretty much identical to the restaurant version. I tweaked her recipe a bit and ended up with this beauty.
This recipe is the ideal comfort food for when you need a break from contemplating your very existence. The sauce - literally cream and Parmesan - is creamy and rich but weirdly isn't heavy at all. The roasted sweet potatoes and caramelized leeks are super flavorful and are great pops of color in what would otherwise be a very beige meal. It's addicting. It's wonderful. Fill up a bowl, put on your eating pants, and get to it.
Love and meows, Rina
ROASTED SWEET POTATO + CARAMELIZED LEEK PAPPARDELLE
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active Cook Time: 5m | Total Cook Time: 35m
Category: Main, Pasta
Source: slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats
4 medium/2 large leeks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and 1-inch cubed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiana Regianno cheese
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces pappardelle pasta
Preheat the oven: 400 F.
Clean the leeks: leeks grow in sand, so they are REALLY dirty, even if you can't always see it. To clean the leeks, trim the ends and the tough dark green leaves, and thinly slice the remaining stalk. Place the slices into a container filled with water, swish the slices around to dislodge any dirt and grit, and then scoop out the slices and put them into a colander to drain. Don't just drain into the colander, that'll put all the dirt back in.
Caramelize the leeks: add olive oil to a large saute pan and place over low heat. Add the leeks and toss to coat evenly. Stir every 5-7 minutes or so to ensure they don't get too dark too fast, but leave them alone to do their thing.
Roast the sweet potatoes: while the leeks are caramelizing, place the sweet potatoes on a bare baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Cook for 20 minutes - the sweet potatoes should be soft enough that they can be pierced with a fork, but not falling apart - you want the cubes to hold their shape while getting tossed into the pasta. If your potatoes need more time, give them a toss and cook for 5-10 minutes more. Set aside.
Make the sauce: in a small saucepan add the heavy cream, parmesan, black pepper and nutmeg. Place on medium-low heat and stir until the cheese is totally melted. Don't let the mixture start to boil! Low and slow is perfect here.
Cook the pasta: cook the pasta according to package instructions. Fresh takes only a few minutes to cook, while dried takes longer. Make sure to test your pasta before you drain - some people like their pasta barely cooked, and others like it super soft. There is no wrong way to eat pasta! Just test a noodle or two towards the end of the cooking process to make sure it's the texture you want.
Assemble! reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and place back in the pot. Add a small amount of the pasta water to the sauce, and then add the sauce to the pasta. Add in the sweet potatoes and leeks and stir well.
To serve: serving immediately is best, when the pasta is fresh and warm, but this can be reheated and still be pretty damn tasty as well. It should be known that dry white wine is STELLAR with this recipe. Do with that what you will.
To keep: this pasta will keep well in a tightly sealed container or zippered bag for a few days.