I eat one brussels sprout a year.
It’s a family rule, though it punishes only me — the sole holdout in a family of sprout fanatics. With enough gravy to dunk the sprout in, I can power through the yearly ordeal.
This year, however, no one seemed to notice that my plate remained sprout-free. But it made me think: was there a way I could learn to love my vegetable nemesis? The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is yes, and it involves spaghetti and bacon’s Italian cousin.
Behold, Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta.
Once I made the decision to try this recipe out, I made a shopping list. Somehow sprouts failed to make it onto the scrap of paper: it seems my subconscious couldn’t believe I really did want them.
At the Italian deli where I bought my pancetta, I wasn’t paying enough attention either. I think the idea was to use a couple of thickish slices of the cured meat that could then be sliced into matchsticks. My slices were thinner than regular bacon, so I just chopped it into small pieces. Considering thinner slices meant better pancetta distribution, I didn’t really see a problem.
I also didn’t notice the clerk was slicing up “hot” pancetta. But I kind of liked the kick of heat to this dish. If you like a little spice and can find hot pancetta, I say go for it. Otherwise, if you still want some heat, you can probably add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
The original recipe suggests using the slicing blade of a food processor to thinly slice the sprouts. The photo on the web-site shows lovely green pieces of sprout. I ended up with vegetable confetti. If you’re looking for pretty, I’d suggest trying the mandoline route. Otherwise, the food processor is fine.
While waiting for the spaghetti to finish cooking, I took a test bite of the sprout mix and couldn’t stop myself from eating more. Sure, any vegetable cooked with pancetta, pasta and pine nuts is probably going to be fantastic, but I really did enjoy the flavour of the sprouts.
A quick saute with garlic and shallots, rounded out with just salt and pepper, brought a nice simplicity to the dish. And because the sprouts don’t cook for long, they were tender, not mushy.
Perhaps this is the start of a whole new, sprout-loving me.
Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
From The Kitchn
- 1 lb (500 g) brussels sprouts
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- 6oz (170g)pancetta, diced or cut into strips
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) chicken broth
- 1/2lb (250g)spaghetti
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) pine nuts, toasted
- salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and remove the toughest outer leaves. Shred them in a food processor, using the slicing attachment, or slice them carefully on a mandoline or as thinly as possible with a knife.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, until fairly crispy and cooked through. Clear some space in the middle of the pan and add the shallots. (If you don’t have enough room in your pan to create space, you can remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add it back in when you add the sprouts.) Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute or so.
While the shallots are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
Add the brussels sprouts and the chicken broth to the large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and toss all of the ingredients together. (Go easy on the salt initially because pancetta can be quite salty.) Cook, tossing occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the skillet. You can add a splash of the pasta water (or more broth) if the mixture seems dry. Add pine nuts, toss everything together, season to taste and serve. Serves 3 to 4.