This leek and cheese pasta dish is a great recipe for getting children to try leeks and enjoy them, pairing them with things which most children like - pasta and cheese!
You can vary the sauce, you can add bacon or ham, you can make it vegan or dairy free by using a vegan cheese alternative, it works great with crumbled tempeh or feta. Get the basic recipe right with children and then you can experiment together to find your family's favourite version!
Two large or three small leeks
enough pasta for 4 people
100g cheddar type cheese
200g cream cheese (see below for alternatives)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Alternatives for sauces:
Vegan - 50ml plant milk with 3tbsp nutritional yeast and vegan cheese topping
Meat - add four rashers of fried bacon or snipped up ham
Non-creamy sauce - 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp soy sauce
Saucepan for pasta
Microwave safe bowl
Chopping board, child safe knife and good scissors
Instructions for children:
Put a pan of water on to heat up. When it is boiling, ask a grown up to help you carefully add the pasta, and put the timer on for the number of minutes it says on the packet.
While the water is heating up, get started on your leeks.
On the chopping board, carefully chop the flat rooty end off.
Then turn it around, and cut off the very dark green fanned leaves from the other end. You should be left with a long whiteish stem.
Cut the long stem into two pieces so you have two long chunks. This will make the next bit easier.
This next bit is tricky so you might need a bit of help from a grown up. Cut each chunk of leek lengthways. You can hold the leek still with your other hand using the bridge technique shown in this video. If you like, get a grown up to do this one step and you will be able to do everything else.
You should now have a few strips of leek, mostly in half moon strips, some of the bits will have fallen apart a bit, that's ok. Now you can cut them into little slices. If you have already practiced a lot with a knife, you can cut up your leeks into chunks with a knife. But an easier way is to use scissors, because leeks can be a bit slippy and the layers can slip under your knife.
Get your microwave bowl and make sure you can work easily over it. You might need to kneel on your chair to be high enough.
Hold one of your half moon strips of leeks in one hand and snip them into chunks with your scissors so that the snipped bits fall into the bowl.
It doesn't matter whether all the pieces are the same size, because they will look different when they are cooked.
Some of the bits of leek will slip out and fall out of your hand when you are doing this, especially when you get near to the end of the piece. That's ok. Just carry on with the bits in your hand, and then pick up the dropped bits and snip those separately.
Carry on until you have lots of snipped up leeks in your bowl.
Take your bowl of leeks to the sink and add some water. Swirl your hands around with the leeks to clean them in the water. When you think they are clean, put them in a colander and drain the water off. Then put them back in the bowl. Add a splash of water. Put a lid, a plate or some clingfilm on top and put them in the microwave, on full power for about 6 minutes. When they are done, ask a grown up to help with the hot bowl and put them back in the colander to drain off, then back in the hot bowl to keep warm until your pasta is done.
While the leeks are in the microwave, grate your cheese, being careful with your fingers towards the end.
When your pasta is done, ask a grown up to drain it in a colander.
All of these steps are in a hot pan, so make sure you are standing on a stool or ask to have the pan on a mat on a table where you can reach over it safely to stir without catching your arms on the hot pan.
Put all of your cream cheese and garlic powder in the empty pan (or any other sauces you choose to use instead) and stir it all to mix. You might want to add some salt and pepper.
Put the leeks into the sauce and stir it around.
Add the pasta back and stir it really well until all of the pasta has got some sauce on it.
Put the pasta into warm bowls and sprinkle your cheese on top. You can pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds if you want to really melt your cheese.
If you want to add bacon, ham or tempeh, add it on top. Enjoy!