I know I promised quick meals beyond pasta. I am presenting this pasta dish for your consideration despite my earlier and very recent promise for two reasons: first and foremost, it is flippin’ delicious. Who would think of adding brussels sprouts to spaghetti carbonara? Me! That’s who! And I’m pretty pleased with myself. (Brief side note: Many Americans seem to think that spaghetti carbonara should have a big mess of cream in it. For those people, I guess it does. But the Italian version of the dish has not a drop of cream – just egg that cooks and turns into a vaguely creamy sauce as the heat from the pasta cooks it on contact. If not-fully-cooked egg freaks you out, move right along – this recipe would not be for you).
The second reason I present it to you is quite simple: I am slammed. Work and life and civic duty have colluded to render me a shell of my usual self. And it’s going to last a while and I’m only at the beginning. About all I can do is cook pasta.
Brussels sprouts pasta
You can use less brussels sprouts, if you like. I tend to overdo it because I love them so much. This recipe is all about the method, so be sure to read the whole thing before you start. I can prep all this stuff while the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, but I’m speedy – you might want to do some brussels sprouts trimming ahead of time. You can always start the water and let it boil until you’re ready to the add the pasta – a watched pot may never boil but a pot of boiling water is not the boss of you! Oh my, I’m really losing my mind.
12 oz. orecchiette or penne pasta (or other bite-sized shape)
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 slice pancetta, about 1/3-inch thick or 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes or more to taste, if you like
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (or other hard grating cheese, such as parmesan), plus more to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Salt it until it tastes as salty as ocean water. Cook the pasta until tender to the bite. BUT FIRST…
While the water comes to a boil, heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Cook the pancetta until brown and crispy. Add the garlic and red chile flakes. Cook about a minute before adding the white wine. Boil and let it reduce to about half of what it was. Add the brussels sprouts, cover, and cook, stirring now and again, until the sprout slices are yummily tender, about 5 minutes.
As the brussels cook, beat the eggs in a large bowl until no glops or gobs remain – they should be as thin as water. Add the cheese and pepper. Stir or whisk to combine.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and IMMEDIATELY dump it into the egg mixture and start tossing. Keep tossing. Seriously, just keep tossing it. Then add the hot brussels sprout mixture and toss that like there is no tomorrow. The egg and cheese should have cooked and melted, respectively, to form a luscious sauce with the bit of oil and pancetta fat and reduced wine left in the brussels sprouts somewhere.
Top with more cheese and pepper and see how easy it is to eat a giant bowl or two of this after a long hard day.