Aglio Olio Leek-aroncino


Classic Aglio e Olio gets an allium-y upgrade with the addition of a big tangle of soft, sweet sauteed leeks. You’ll use all parts of the leek here, because we don’t waste perfectly good leek greens in this household. Not for a second!!!

Active Time: 50 Mins

Total Time: 1 hr

Screenshot 2024-02-23 at 12.54.08 PM


  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium leeks (1 ½ lbs)
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 lemons


  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or other long pasta


  • Grated parmigiano reggiano, for serving

1. Chop some stuff:

  • Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
  • Lightly smash and peel 12 garlic cloves. Thinly slice the garlic as evenly as possible. Set aside.
  • Trim the hairy ends of 3 medium leeks. Cut the leeks crosswise every 3’ (including the dark green parts!!) Cut each of those 3” pieces in half lengthwise, and then into ½” wide strips, (So basically you’ll have a bunch of 3 x ½” batons.) Transfer the leeks to a large bowl of cold water and swoosh around to separate the layers and dislodge any dirt that may be clinging to them. Drain well and pat dry.
  • Finely chop the leaves and tender stems of 1 bunch of parsley.

2. Caramelize the leeks and garlic:

  • Grab a slotted spoon and a small bowl and have them at the ready.
  • In a large (12”) high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, combine ⅓ cup olive oil and the sliced garlic. Set the skillet over medium and cook, stirring frequently to keep the garlic moving at all times, until the garlic just barely begins to turn golden at the edges in some areas, 4-6 minutes. Turn off the heat and add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet immediately, to lower the temp and stop the cooking.
  • With the skillet still off heat, use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic slices to the small bowl, leaving behind just the oil that it cooked in.
  • Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the leeks, a few big pinches of salt, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cover with a lid and cook over medium for 5 -7 minutes, just enough to help collapse the leeks with steam, and get them softened (they should have no color at this point, but the greens will be bright green). Remove the lid, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks begin to caramelize and some stick to bottom of pot, 5-6 minutes longer. There should be a nice mix of browned bits and tender green bits. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if they need it. Stir in the reserved garlic, and remove from the heat. Let sit off heat until pasta is ready.

3. Cook pasta, toss, and serve:

  • Drop 12 ounces pasta into the pot of boiling water and give it a good stir. Once it is cooked just a minute or two of al dente, return the pot of leeks to medium heat.
  • Using tongs, add the pasta to the pot, along with 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook over medium, stirring vigorously to create an emulsion between the pasta water and the olive oil, and continue to cook the pasta through for about 2 minutes longer, adding more pasta water as needed (it will absorb a lot!), until the pasta is nicely coated. Stir in another tablespoon or so of fresh olive oil and toss again. Taste and see how it is–does it need more salt? More oil? More red pepper flakes? Remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped parsley and finely grate in the zest of 1 ½ lemons.
  • Divide among serving bowls. Grate more lemon zest over each bowl and top with grated parmesan cheese. Pass around more parm at the table.

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