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Kitty Coles’ easy recipe for soft leeks with ricotta parsley sauce and parmesan breadcrumbs

Parsley sauce is making a comeback – you heard it here first. I eat it a lot, in various iterations, but in today’s dish it is one of three things that are very simple to make and work beautifully in harmony. The other two are soft, buttery leeks and cheesy breadcrumbs. Together, these three building blocks make a perfect Easter lunch, either alongside potatoes and greens, or as a side for ham or roast chicken. I urge you to make extra breadcrumbs – they are addictive and go with everything. Thank me later.

Soft leeks with ricotta parsley sauce and parmesan breadcrumbs

If you’d prefer a classic cheese bechamel to parsley sauce, omit the herbs and add a handful of cheddar.

Prep 20 min
Cook 40-50 min
Serves 4

For the leeks
6-8 leeks, halved if very thick, or 10-12 baby leeks
Salt and black pepper
30g salted butter, cubed
Nutmeg, for grating, to serve

For the parmesan breadcrumbs
3 slices stale bread (about 150g), ideally sourdough
3 tbsp olive oil
20g parmesan
, finely grated, plus extra for serving

For the parsley sauce
40g salted butter
40g plain flour
350ml whole milk
2 t
bsp ricotta, or mascarpone
large handful parsley, finely chopped
Juice and zest of ½ lemon

Heat the oven to 210C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Clean and trim the leeks, then lay them in a baking tray so they fit quite snugly, but with a little space between them. Season, add the butter and a splash of water, then cover with foil and roast for 40-50 minutes, until completely soft (the cooking time will depend on the size of the leeks, so keep an eye on them).

Blitz the bread in a food processor, then pour the crumbs onto a tray, add the oil, season, and toss to coat. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove, add the parmesan, toss again and return to the oven for five minutes more, until golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Cook, stirring, for two minutes, to “cook out” the flour (if you don’t, the bechamel will taste like flour), then slowly add a quarter of the milk, stirring constantly. It will thicken instantly, but keep stirring until it comes together into a smooth paste. Add another quarter of the milk, and keep stirring – the mix will start to loosen up and look a bit more like a sauce. Repeat with the remaining mil, until you end up a really silky, thick sauce. Vigorously whisk in the ricotta, parsley and lemon zest, season generously, then take off the heat.

Take the leeks out of the oven. Lay them on a platter, pour over half the sauce, scatter with the breadcrumbs, some extra parmesan and a grating of nutmeg, and serve with the rest of the sauce on the side.

Alternatively, tip out any excess liquid from the leeks, then pour the sauce on top. Sprinkle with more cheese, then grill for a few minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Add a squeeze of lemon and the breadcrumbs, and serve with a dollop of mustard and a green salad.

  • Kitty Coles’ book, Make More with Less: Foolproof Recipes to Make Your Food go Further, is published by Hardie Grant at £22. To order a copy for £19.36, go to

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