I get my inspiration for new dishes from various sources, including restaurants, my favourite blogs, my collection of recipe books, and eating at the homes of friends and family. This recipe caught my eye however as I was glancing through my free one-year subscription to Canadian Living Magazine! (That was my ‘reward’ that I selected when I finally redeemed my Huggies points after years of buying diapers and wipes for the kiddos!) Wahoo!!
I was trying to find a way to use up the rest of the leeks from our garden when this recipe caught my eye. Pasta, sausage, leeks and cherry tomatoes … a wonderful collection of flavours in one dish and simple enough for a weeknight supper. DONE!
Have you cooked with leeks much? I’ve just started over the past few years and I am not sure why it took me so long. I find that they have an almost sweet taste, much more mellow than a regular white cooking onion, and they don’t inflict the pain of “onion tears” upon me when cutting them either! They pair very well with many dishes – i.e. omelets or frittatas, various soups, and sautéed in just about any dish where you would typically use onions.
Leeks are part of the nutritionally potent family of vegetables called the Allium family, and their other cousins include onions, shallots, scallions, garlic and chives. Need some more reasons to eat leeks, other then the fact that they taste great?! Here’s the top five highly concentrated micronutrients found in leeks!
1 cup of raw leeks contain:
- 35-46% of DRI for vitamin K --- the “clotting” vitamin; also important for bone health
- 19% of DRI for vitamin B6 --- the “go to” for hundreds of enzyme reactions of metabolism
- 15% of DRI for copper --- keeps blood vessels, nerves, immune system and bones healthy
- 14% of DRI for folate --- especially important during pregnancy for neural tube development
- 12-18% of DRI for vitamin C --- as I have said before, it’s not only in oranges folks!
And if that's not impressive enough, there's more!
Leeks and eye health: enter lutein + zeaxanthin!
The vast majority of the research on these two carotenoid pigments relates to eye health. There is a great deal of research to support the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin in the prevention of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Leeks are right up near the top as a potent source of these two pigments, along with basil, parsley, spinach and kale to name a few.
Leeks and cancer prevention: enter kaempferol!
Kaempferol is a type of polyphenol and antioxidant that happens to be found in abundance in leeks, as well as many other fruits and vegetables. This antioxidant, like other antioxidants, can scavenge for free radicals, which is great because free radicals can cause a great deal of cellular damage. More importantly, researchers have shown in the laboratory setting (i.e. petri dishes) that this flavonoid can target/kill cancer cells at many stages in its development but is also smart enough to keep the healthy cells alive! If only the same could be said for all chemotherapy and radiation treatments...
Preparation and cooking
I have to admit that I find leeks a bit more time consuming to chop and prepare for recipes, since the bulb of the leek is typically filled with dirt. (In the garden, leeks are hilled which allows for a greater part of the leek to mature into the white bulb, which is the part that we typically use for cooking.) The easiest way for me to prepare them is to chop them all up, place them in a colander, and rinse thoroughly with water to wash away any remaining dirt.
Ok, back to the good stuff - here's the recipe!
Sausage and Leek Fusilli
Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine, November 2012 issue
- 12 oz whole wheat (or gluten-free) fusilli pasta
- 225 g or 8 oz pork or turkey sausages, casings removed
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 or 3 leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- ¾ cup of sodium-reduced chicken broth
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, in large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking up with back of spoon, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer to bowl. Drain all but 2 tsp fat from pan, or add olive oil if not enough fat.
- Add leeks, salt and pepper to pan; cook over medium heat, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until leeks are softened but some liquid remains, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pasta, reserved cooking liquid and half of the sausage; cook, tossing, until tomatoes are softened slightly, about 2 min.
- Serve topped with remaining sausage and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for good measure!
And to answer that other question that is lurking in the back of your head ... yes, dietitians eat pasta.
It's all about portions my friends.
Take it one bite at a time :)
- Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Leek Production. Accessed October 23, 2016 at http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/91-004.htm
- USDA Nutrient Database. Accessed October 23, 2016 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2996?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=50&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=leeks&ds=
- El-Sayed M.A., Akhtar, H., Zaheer, K., Ali R. Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients 2013, 5, 1169-1185.
- Chen, A., Chen, Y.C. A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. Food Chem 2013, 138(4): 2099-2107.