It matters little how inspiration strikes, only that it does.
I had been looking at The Guardian on line and saw a recipe by Nigel Slater for pasta with Brussels sprouts. He used orzo pasta and paired the sprouts with sausage, a variation on pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.
Slater’s recipe called for boiling the sprouts. Now, I don’t know about you, but I grew up on Brussels sprouts prepared that way and frankly, not only were they uninspiring (sorry, Mom) but they were pretty loathsome little creatures.
But then as a nation we discovered roasting. And the Brussels sprout was never the same. Even my kids will attack these at the dinner table.
Roasted Brussels sprouts are a great “side” dish, finished at the last minute in a quick saute in some olive oil, perhaps adding some garlic, or pecans, or sun-dried cranberries—the options and variations are limitless—but I never thought of them with pasta. Here I paired the sprouts with bacon (vegetarians could opt out and use some type of nut (walnut, pecan, or pine nut, for example). I used orecchiette pasta, but feel free to use whatever pasta you have in your pantry. Since I like to pick out and use the smallest Brussels sprouts (if you see someone digging through the sprouts in the market, it might be me) I thought the “little ears” of pasta would catch the sprouts and bacon when everything was tossed together at the end.
This is easy. You only have a wait for the sprouts to roast during which you can cook the bacon and start the pasta. If you use a regular sauté pan to cook the bacon (one that isn’t “non-stick”) there will be some flavorful little bits left in the bottom of the pan that will add to the flavor of the dish.
Remember that there is a fine line between roasted and burned. You want the former, not the latter, so watch. The small amount of sugar mixed with the sprouts sweetens their flavor but also speeds caramelization.
Orecchiette with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
For two servings
3 ounces orecchiette pasta
½ pound Brussels sprouts
3 slices bacon (thick sliced, if possible)
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot (or onion)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes, optional
¼ cup vegetable broth or pasta water
salt and ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove some of the outer layers from the Brussels sprouts and trim the
bottoms. Depending on the size, you’ll want to halve or quarter them lengthwise. Rinse the sprouts under cold water. Place the sprouts into a small bowl. Drizzle the sprouts with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with some salt, about ½ teaspoon, ground black pepper, the sugar and the juice of ½ a lemon. Mix to coat the sprouts. Line a baking pan with a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spread the sprouts out into a single layer on the baking sheet and place them into the oven to roast for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and using a spoon, turn the sprouts so they brown evenly. Return the pan to the oven and roast for an additional 6 minutes, or until they are tender,
2. While the sprouts are cooking, cut the bacon crosswise into 1” pieces. Place a large sauté pan onto the stove over medium heat. When hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the bacon to the pan. Cook the bacon until it is crisp; remove the bacon from the pan and let it drain one some paper towels. Drain the oil/bacon fat from the pan, reserving it to use later.
3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package directions until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, return the sauté pan to the stove over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon or so of the reserved bacon fat. Add the shallots (or onion) and sauté for one to two minutes so they begin to soften. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the roasted Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir together. Pour about ¼ cup vegetable stock or the pasta water into the pan. Scrape any little bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan when the bacon cooked. Let the liquid reduce slightly. If the pasta isn’t ready, set the pan aside.
When the pasta is ready, drain the pasta. Place the pan back onto the stove over high heat; add the bacon and the pasta to the pan and stir together; season to taste with some salt and ground black pepper. Finish the pasta with the juice of the remaining lemon half and Parmesan cheese; mix together. Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve. Brussels sprouts never had it so good.