Foodie Friday: Brussels sprouts and pasta together
Brussels sprouts are actually a favorite vegetable at our house, even among the kids. We roast them, braise and glaze them, and now — thanks to this recipe from the New York Times — serve them over pasta. If you’ve never been a Brussels sprouts fan before, give this one a try. Then try my other favorite recipe.
For now, here’s Penne, Brussels Sprouts, Chile and Pancetta (with some additional commentary from me because I can never leave well enough alone). I have doubled the original recipe since we double everything at our house.
16 ounces penne
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 large rosemary sprigs
12 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 jalapeño or Serrano chile, thinly sliced (or substitute 2 large pinches crushed red pepper flakes, which is what we did here)
Freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons butter
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)
My two cents: Before you start any of the steps below, you need to deal with those “thinly sliced” Brussels sprouts. I started out with a knife and cutting board. After about three sprouts and the realization that this meal would not be ready until Christmas if I didn’t step it up, I resorted to the food processor. I say “resorted” because I often find that using a food processor for grating or finely slicing veggies results in a consistency I don’t like, but this time it worked like a charm. Do yourself a favor; use a food processor with the slicing blade here.
1. Bring large pot heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until pasta is just al dente (Do not overcook, I beg you.)
2. Meanwhile, heat large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the pancetta and rosemary, and sauté until the fat on the pancetta starts to turn translucent and very lightly brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, chile, and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and sauté until pancetta turns richly brown, about 3 minutes. (I cooked the pancetta longer than the recipe recommended. And, quite frankly, it still wasn’t golden enough for my taste — and I don’t even eat it. Just be careful not to burn the garlic.) Add the brussels sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water to pan, and sauté until sprouts just start to soften, about 2 minutes. (Again, I let this go for about four minutes here.) Spread sprouts mixture in pan and press down to flatten. Let it sear for a minute, then stir it up and repeat. This helps brown the sprouts. Add the butter, and sauté for another minute.
3. Drain penne and add it to pan with brussels sprouts mixture. Cook, tossing, until everything is well mixed, and serve. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with a drizzle of oil and lemon juice, and a little cheese if you like. (I added lemon juice to the large bowl of pasta rather than over individual servings.)
In deference to the meat eaters, I actually cooked the pancetta as directed to get the flavor and then pulled it out and put it in a separate bowl so the carnivores could sprinkle it on at will. Clearly strict vegetarians would not abide by this as I still used pork belly (sorry, but it is what it is). You could do this without any meat at all. You may need to up some other flavor elements and definitely add the cheese when serving. Unless you’re a vegan. Then you have to deal with replacing butter, meat, and cheese, but I know you can do it, so go for it.