A little pancetta, bacon, or sausage is the quickest way we know to add spectacular flavor to pasta. You could use any of the three in this dish, although we think pancetta has a lighter touch than the other two, which allows the sprouts to take center stage.
In fact, the pasta is almost secondary. We used only half a pound, so that our bowls were equal parts veggie and noodles.
Everything cooks quickly, so this is a great weeknight meal. Try it on a brussels sprouts-hater. We think the bright green color and tender texture will win over a skeptic.
Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
serves three to four
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/3 cup 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 (not the normal chopping blade), or slice them carefully on a mandoline. You can also slice them as thin as possible with a knife.
Heat a large skillet (14-inch if you have one) 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 and garlic. (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.
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. 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 the pine nuts, toss everything together, season to taste, and serve.
*You can certainly add some freshly grated parmesan on top. We also think a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (added with the brussels sprouts) would be nice.
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)