Tuesday Tutor: Featuring My Little Italian Kitchen

Pasta with Scallops and Wine Overhead
Maccheroncini with Scallops, Leek and Saffron Sauce

Every Tuesday I choose a different friend to be my tutor for a day: I select one of their original recipes, I make the recipe following my friend's instructions, I snap a multitude of pictures, I scarf down as much as my belt-line will permit - and then I share everything I love about my friend's recipe. Read more about the details for Tuesday Tutor
My tutor today is Alida from My Little Italian Kitchen - an authentic Italian food blog. Alida focuses on rustic and homemade Italian dishes, quite often featuring fresh seafood or simply prepared pasta. There's nothing pretentious or mystifyingly complicated about Alida's recipes and many are marvelously easy to create with just a handful of ingredients.

The dish I selected for today's feature is a wonderful example of authentic, rustic Italian food from My Little Italian Kitchen - there's only a few ingredients, it takes about 30 minutes to make, and it's prominently features pasta and seafood. So pop over to My Little Italian Kitchen and an enjoy a feast of real Italian cuisine...

About the Author: Fun Facts
  1. "I carry my Italian heritage with me at all times and everything is linked to my tummy: if I go on a trip, that has only been good if I have eaten well. Food was bad so trip was bad."
  2. "I love fish. If I am presented with a fish dish, I can tell if it was caught on the same day at a glance."
  3. "I am passionate about organic food."
  4. "Sometimes I imagine and compare myself to a 50s housewife, just need to put some red lippy on too!"
  5. "My motto is: Smile! Life is far too short to worry too much."
Author's Photo

Olive Oil in Enamled Cast Iron Pan
You can prepare this entire dish in approximately 30 minutes. But it will require you to multitask.
Or rather, it will require you to watch two pots while you are also preparing the other ingredients.
If that sounds a little dangerous, you can also prepare your leeks and scallops before heating
the pots. To start, add olive oil to a large pot (I used my enameled cast iron dutch oven) and let
the oil heat over medium-low heat while you prepare the next ingredients.

Gallon of Water in a Large Pot
Add 1 gallon of filtered water to a large stock pot - a large pot is essential when cooking pasta
as pasta requires a lot of room to move about while cooking to avoid sticking together.

Cover and Bring Water to Boil
Cover the pot and bring the water to the boil (salt is added later - if you add it now, it will take
the pot longer to come to the boil)

Leeks with Tough Greens Removed
While the oil heats and the water comes to the boil, you can prepare your leek(s). Alida's recipe
uses one leek, but since I can only buy them in pairs locally, I decided to use two leeks. Before
chopping these leeks, you will need to clean them thoroughly as they grow in sand and are filled
with grit between every layer of leaves. Start by removing the tough dark green tops...

Leeks Sliced Lengthwise to Expose Sand
...then slice each leek in half, lengthwise. Leave on the root as it helps to hold the leek together.

Thoroughly Washing Away Sand from Leeks
Next, wash each leek under cool water. Take your time and get these leeks really clean.
A tiny bit of sand will ruin otherwise delicious pasta.

Slice Leeks Lengthwise With Root On
Once clean, slice the leeks down the center (but don't slice through the root). Now finely
slice each leek...

Finely Sliced Leeks
...and you will arrive at a delicious pile of leeks...

Sauteed Leeks
The oil should now be good and hot, so add the leeks and give them a stir to coat them with oil.
Let them sauté until softened.

Boiling Water for Pasta
The water should now be at the boil

Crushed Sea Salt for Boiling Water
Add your salt. Be very generous. I recommend crushed sea salt as it has a little stronger flavor
than kosher salt but less harsh than common table salt.

1 Pound of Ziti Pasta
Next comes the pasta. I chose to use ziti pasta but you could use your favorite. You will need
approximately 400 grams of pasta which is just under 1 lb. For me, that meant just less than
one full box of ziti pasta

Add Pasta to Boiling Water
Add the pasta to your boiling salted water

Pasta Cooking
Give the pasta a good stir and let it cook until al dente. For me, this was about 7 minutes.

Leeks Softening
Give your leeks a stir and reduce heat if they're cooking too fast.

Saffron for Toasting
While the pasta and leeks cook, you will have time to toast your saffron. I might be able to
skip this step, but Alida recommended it so I gave it go. Just add a good pinch of saffron
stems to a small pan

Saffron Toasting Over Low Heat
Set the pan over low heat and allow the saffron to toast for approx 5 minutes, shaking the pan
every minute or so. As soon as you can smell the saffron, cut the heat.

Glass of White Wine
Pour yourself a glass of a white wine you enjoy drinking. Just don't drink it =)

Add Wine to Leeks
Add the white wine to the softened leeks and give the leeks a stir

Add Toasted Saffron to Leeks
Add the toasted saffron...

Salt and Pepper Added to Leeks
...and kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Don't over-salt and don't be too liberal with the pepper
or it will overpower the flavors in the dish. I used about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and about
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Give everything a stir and let it reduce slightly while draining the pasta.

Drained Pasta
Once the pasta is al dente, drain...

8 Large Fresh Scallops
Next come the scallops - Alida recommend 8 fresh scallops which for me was about 3/4 lb.
I did my best to obtain fresh scallops, but I suspect these were more than 24 hours old...

Diced Scallops
Dice the scallops...

Scallops Added to Leeks
...and add to the leek and saffron sauce. Give everything a stir and let the scallops cook for
3 minutes or so

Cooked Pasta Added to Sauce and Scallops
Add the pasta and drizzle with another couple tablespoons of olive oil. Give everything a
stir and allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for 1-2 minutes. Check seasonings and adjust.

Pasta with Scallops and Wine Angle Shot
The best part is eating =)
I love family-style dishes like this where everyone takes a helping from one enormous pot,
so this was perfect for me. And you know how much I love scallops, leeks and pasta...

Pasta with Scallops Served
Despite generous helpings (and a few more tastes after the first serving was devoured), there was
still plenty left for at least 2 more meals for my bf and I. Which is definitely my kind of recipe!

Thoughts while scarfing...
  • Don't be fooled by the short list of ingredients - there's a lot happening in this deceptively simple dish. The leeks add a mildly cheesy bite, the wine perks up all of the flavors, and the entire dish is infused with warmth from the saffron. The well-salted water delicately seasons the pasta which keeps it from becoming too bland and the scallops are a juicy change in texture.
  • When I make this pasta again, I plan to add a few more strands of saffron and maybe even a splash of white wine vinegar - I love saffron and I really wanted just a little more punchiness from the wine. Just don't overdo on the saffron or it will overpower everything.
  • Very generously salt the pasta water - I recommend at least 1 Tablespoon of sea salt per gallon of water, but you may find you need more. I find it's better to salt the pasta water than to salt the dish at the end as the pasta really has a better chance to absorb the flavor while it cooks and the flavor is more delicate than harsh.
  • Do NOT overcook the pasta! I cooked mine for 8 minutes in boiling water and I should have only cooked for 7 minutes before draining and adding to the sauce. The pasta really should be al-dente when added to the sauce so that it has a chance to absorb the flavor over the heat without turning mushy.
  • As you saw, I used 2 leeks instead of just the one (per Alida's original recipe) - I'm glad I added the extra leek because leeks have a way of disappearing as they cook down. And you know me - I LOVE leeks and their slightly cheesy flavor...

Other Must-Try Recipes from My Little Italian Kitchen
Maybe scallops and pasta aren't your thing. But I guarantee you'll find something wonderful from My Little Italian Kitchen. Check out these delicious posts and tell me you're not inspired!

Orange and Walnut Chocolate Cake
Cantuccini Biscuits
"Barbecue Style" Langoustines with Cumin
Chicken with Herbs and Olives
Linzer Biscuits


  1. What a great tutorial and what a fantastic dish! I don't use seafood near enough with pasta and I should because it's dishes like this that I love! And...nothing wrong with 2 leeks! I love the flavor of leeks. Great dish!

  2. Thank you so much for this! I really love the way you have done this recipe. Your tutoring is as usual, very professional indeed, so it is the way you introduce blogs.
    I like the idea of adding an extra leek for extra flavour!
    PS: I notice you use Barilla pasta and this is the one I grew up with! It is a very good make! So classic Italian.

  3. I really enjoyed reading that JW! I love scallops and leeks and pasta.....


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