When people think about Italian food, they think about red sauce and stretchy, gooey slabs of mozzarella cheese. While there is very little that we like more than the classic Italian meatballs, marinara and mozzarella repertoire, every once in a while it’s good to explore other areas of Italian cuisine.
Italian food tends to be simple (which is perfect for college students) and has a remarkable ability to bring out the best in fresh vegetables. A favorite but lesser known pairing is brussels sprouts and pancetta, which is the basis of this relatively light and easy pasta dish. If you haven’t touched a brussels sprout since you spat one out as a kid, they’re worth revisiting. When you saut?e fresh brussels sprouts together with pancetta, garlic and onion, all of their bitter cabbage-ness melts away and you’re left with a hearty dish that won’t leave you missing the meatballs (even though it’s mostly leaves).
Besides being delicious, this sprout hash is surprisingly versatile. If you’re not feeling up to pasta, you can have it as a side dish. Another of our favorite ways to eat it is to pair it with some mozzarella as the topping of a unique but crowd-pleasing homemade pizza. The easiest way to make a meal out of them, though, is to serve them with pasta. When topped with parmesan or romano cheese, there’s no better way to change up your pasta game. We followed Melissa Clark’s recipe (New York Times, Nov. 28, 2012). Try it out.
1/2 lb penne pasta
3 slices of pancetta, diced
3 cups brussells sprouts, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and then cook the pasta.
2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saut?e pan. Once the oil is hot, add pancetta and saut?e until the fat turns translucent, about one minute.
3. Add the garlic, a few grinds of black pepper and red pepper flakes, and continue to saut?e until the pancetta turns a rich brown, taking care not to burn the garlic.
4. Add the brussels sprouts to the pan with a splash of water and a pinch of salt, and saut?e until they start to soften, about two minutes.
5. Once your brussels sprouts have wilted and shrunk down a bit, spread them out over the bottom of the pan and press down with a spatula. When the bottom becomes brown and caramelized, flip them (or just give them a stir) and repeat on the other side.
6. When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to the pan with your brussels sprouts. Stir the pasta and the sprouts to combine.
For a little extra protein, a bit of sweetness, and some crunch, throw in some pine nuts or walnuts with the pasta before you serve.