Jump to Recipe
You'll be amazed at how flavorful this caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta is just from a few ingredients. A comforting vegetarian pasta fit for any day of the week!
Watch how to make this
What makes this dish special
What's your favorite season? Mine is fall but if I was to base it solely on food, it would have to be summer. For some reason, I'm not too crazy about spring foods. Don't get me wrong, I still eat asparagus, radish, and artichoke. But they just don't excite me like peaches or tomatoes. So, I decided to make a spring pasta dish that I would get excited about. This caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta may not be a typical spring dish, but it has leeks so it still counts, right?
Leeks are, in my opinion, a very underrated vegetable. Considering that they belong to the onion family, it's quite surprising that's the case. They're sweeter than onions and when cooked down and caramelized, they're very delicious.
Taking that idea, I decided to create a hearty pasta dish that incorporates sweet caramelized leeks with earthy mushrooms and rich, nutty gruyere. Even if you're a meat lover, you'll hardly miss it with this incredibly satisfying pasta.
- Leeks: Leeks are a vegetable belonging to the onion family but with a milder and sweeter flavor. They have a cylindrical shape with long, white stalks and green leaves.
- Sherry wine: Made from white grapes and has a rich and nutty flavor. Sherry wine is often used in cooking to add depth and complexity to sauces, marinades, and soups. If you can't find sherry wine you can use white wine or chicken broth instead, although the flavor won't be completely the same.
- Oyster mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom with a distinctive oyster-like appearance. They have a delicate texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. If you can't find oyster mushrooms, substitute them with another meaty mushroom such as button mushrooms, cremini, porcini, or chanterelles.
- Heavy cream: A rich dairy that is used to thicken and enrich the pasta sauce.
- Sage: An herb with gray-green leaves that have a strong, earthy, and slightly peppery flavor that helps balance the rich pasta sauce.
- Balsamic vinegar: This vinegar has a sweet and tangy flavor with a hint of acidity that also helps balance the creamy sauce.
- Fettuccine: I used long, flat noodles for this sauce because they pair well with creamy sauces. However, you can use another type of pasta such as spaghetti, rigatoni, or tagliatelle.
- Gruyere: A type of Swiss cheese with a firm and creamy texture with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.
- Pine nuts: The buttery nut is used as a finishing touch for the pasta but can be omitted.
How to make caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta
Step 1: Caramelize Leeks
Prepare the leeks by first removing the green tops; we only want the bulbs and lighter green leaves. Then, cut them in half lengthwise and wash the dirt in between the layers. Cut off the roots and slice the leeks.
If you ever prepared caramelized onions, caramelizing leeks is the same process. Melt a pat of butter and drizzle some oil in a saute pan. I like to use a combination of butter and oil because butter contributes to the flavor.
Continue to cook the vegetable until it becomes golden brown. This is a long slow process and should take about 20 minutes or so. If the pan gets too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
Finish the leeks with a splash of sherry wine, then set them aside.
Step 2: Finish pasta sauce
In the same pan, melt another pat of butter and cook the mushrooms until beautifully browned.
The trick to browning mushrooms is to not overcrowd the pan. Mushrooms have a lot of water in them so if you crowd the pan, they'll steam rather than brown. If you need to cook the mushrooms in batches, it's better to do so.
Add sage and garlic to the pan and saute for another minute. Then, add back the leeks to the pan along with heavy cream, balsamic vinegar, and lemon zest. Simmer the sauce and season it with salt and pepper.
The sauce will be thick but don't worry. We're going to thin it out with the cooking pasta water.
Step 3: Add the pasta
Toss the noodles with the sauce and stir with the gruyere until the cheese is nice and melted. Give the caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta a final seasoning adjustment and top it with toasted pine nuts for the finishing touch. If you're feeling extra cheesy, go ahead and sprinkle some grated parmesan too.
Mushrooms and leeks go hand in hand and this caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta is the perfect example. The sweet leeks pair beautifully with the savory meaty mushrooms and nutty cheese. My kind of spring pasta!
Frequently asked questions
Roasted chicken, crispy prosciutto, or bacon would all work well with the flavors of this caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta.
It's best to serve the dish fresh to enjoy its flavors and textures. However, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and toss it last minute with the pasta right before serving.
Cream-based sauces can sometimes separate when frozen and reheated, affecting the texture. It's generally not recommended to freeze dishes with heavy cream. If you have leftovers, it's best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume them within a few days.
More mushroom recipes
Looking for more mushroom dishes? Try these:
Caramelized Leek and Mushroom Gruyere Pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 3 medium leeks tops removed, cut in half and thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup sherry wine
- 8 ounces oyster mushrooms
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 sage leaves
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 lb fettuccine
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- ½ cup grated gruyere
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add sliced leeks and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon sugar. Cook until golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of water.
- Add sherry and continue to cook until the wine has reduced. Remove leeks from the pan and set them aside.
- In the same pan, melt another tablespoon of butter. Spread mushrooms in an even layer, giving them plenty of space in between. Let them sit until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue to brown on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add minced garlic and sage and saute for 1 minute. Add back leeks along with ¾ cup heavy cream, balsamic vinegar, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, cook fettuccine until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking pasta water.
- Add fettuccine, 1 cup reserved pasta water, gruyere, and black pepper to the sauce, tossing to coat. Simmer for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated. Give a final seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Portion pasta into 4 bowls and garnish with toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.