Sautéed fresh spinach and leeks are flavored with vermouth, blue cheese and lemon zest, then bound into a light creamy sauce made with crème fraîche. Delightful any time of year!
Orecchiette means "little ears" in Italian, and the cup-like shape of this pasta makes it a perfect vehicle for the sauce. The blue cheese can be Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Danish blue...whatever you like or have on hand. The cheese flavor is subtle, but you can add more for a stronger taste or even leave it out; this pasta is also delicious without the cheese. Start the sauté of the leeks when you add the pasta to the boiling water; this dish comes together in a flash if you have everything prepped before you begin.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add salt (2 tablespoons for every 2 quarts of water). Add the orecchiette and stir for 30 seconds. Cook according to the package directions or until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and crushed red pepper in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat if the leeks begin to color. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vermouth and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the crème fraîche and blue cheese.
Drain the pasta thoroughly and transfer it to the skillet. Return the pan to medium heat. Stir until the sauce is hot and the cheese has melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.