Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta
Recipe type: Pasta
I was a late convert to Brussels sprouts. My mother used to boil them until they became grotesque, smelly, sodden puke-green balls of disgust, according to my 6-year-old mind. I loathed them. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I finally ate a Brussels sprout that convinced me otherwise; I was eating at a restaurant and ordered a dish with sprouts on the side. They didn’t LOOK gooshy and gross, and they smelled delectably like garlic and bacon. The color was a bright green, and they were small, somewhat caramelized, and really quite pretty. They even looked a little bit tasty. Hmmm. I hesitantly put one in my mouth and discovered that I LIKED Brussels sprouts, or at least these sprouts. Since then I have discovered that Brussels sprouts must be very fresh, reasonably small, and treated with real respect while cooking and then the results can be glorious. But if they are large, old, and overcooked I morph into that grossed-out 6 year old all over again. Here’s a recipe that (hopefully) even your children will like!
  • One pound small Brussels sprouts
  • ½ pound good-quality smoked bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup light cream or half and half (may need more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat pasta (penne or other short shape preferred)
  1. Fill a large stock pan with water (to cook the pasta) and bring it to a boil. While the water is heating wash and trim the sprouts and chop the bacon into ½ inch squares. Cook the bacon in a large sauce pan on medium heat until it is crisp, and carefully take the bacon pieces out of the pan to allow them to drain on paper towels. Drain off the oil in the sauce pan until you have no more than about 2 tablespoons; keep some in reserve in case you need more.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, drop the cleaned Brussels sprouts into the pot to parboil them for about a minute (this will keep them green as they cook in the oil). Scoop them out (leave the water behind to use for the pasta) and cut in half. Add your pasta to the water - most whole wheat pastas require about 12 minutes so this will give you just enough time to finish the sauce.
  3. Add the garlic to the bacon grease in the sauce pan, and allow it to brown for about two minutes. Then turn the heat up, add the halved Brussels sprouts and shake the pan to distribute the cooking oil on the sprouts. Cover the pan and cook the sprouts for about 6 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally or using a spatula to flip the vegetables so they are evenly cooked. Remove the cover, return the bacon to the pan, sauté for about a minute, then pour the cream in and lower the heat to medium. Add the thyme. Drain your pasta. Check the sauce to make sure the cream has been absorbed somewhat, add salt and pepper, and toss the pasta into the sauce pan and stir to combine. Serve it forth! You may add Parmigiano Reggiano to this dish as well, if you prefer. Serves four.
  4. Note: you may omit the bacon and replace with caramelized onions, braised shallots, pinenuts, walnuts, pecans or even sautéed mushrooms if you wish a vegetarian option. If you do, use a combination of butter and olive oil to cook the sprouts and garlic in place of the bacon fat.