Asiago Mac with Braised Leeks

When braised, leeks turn mellow and sweet. Pair them with sweet and slightly tangy asiago and you have a macaroni & cheese that will have you coming back for seconds.

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Servings: 8


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 leeks, trimmed to remove tops and roots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  •   black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound pennette lisce pasta or macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups milk, warmed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  •   nutmeg, freshly ground, to taste
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Wisconsin asiago cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Wisconsin parmesan cheesefinely grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Heat large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and leeks. Toss well and sauté 5 to 6 minutes until leeks have wilted and just begin to take on a golden color, tossing from time to time. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper and wine. Quickly toss, reduce heat to medium-low and cover pan. Braise leeks for 25 minutes until very tender and all juices have evaporated (if there is still some liquid in the pan after braising the leeks for 25 minutes, sauté at high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until all juices have evaporated). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter medium-sized baking dish.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare béchamel. Place butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as butter is melted, whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture becomes foamy and flour becomes golden, but not brown. Quickly whisk in warm milk and cream. While constantly whisking, return to boil. As soon as mixture reaches boiling point, lower heat to medium and simmer 6 to 8 minutes until béchamel has slightly thickened, still whisking constantly. Add nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and grated asiago. Whisk until cheese has melted and remove from heat.

Place breadcrumbs and parmesan in small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Set aside.

Drain pasta and transfer to large bowl. Add leeks and béchamel to the pasta and stir until well blended. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan breadcrumbs and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly on the sides and golden. Remove from oven and heat the broiler on high. Place macaroni & cheese under the broiler for a few seconds to brown breadcrumbs. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: The braised leeks can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated.

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Semi-soft and semi-hard cheese, like Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Mozzarella, should be very cold for easy grating.