Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Bacon


Have you ever stumbled across something you just never tire of? You can’t really put your finger on why it’s a favorite; but that one song, the soft cozy sweatshirt you’ve had forever, that favorite lotion. I have a ratty pair of jeans that no matter how ‘fluffy’ (or un-fluffy) I get, they magically fit. Clearly, they’re my favorite and I’ll never get rid of them.

This dish is the equivalent of my favorite jeans. It can do no wrong. Somehow no matter what, this meal is always satisfying and delicious no matter how many times I’ve made it (which is a lot) and remains one of the most versatile and crowd-pleasing dishes I’ve ever made.

I make this dish on weeknights when we are hustling between basketball and soccer because it’s a quick dinner to throw together I’ve also made it as a celebration dinner for a family birthday because the flavors are satisfying and a little surprising. Brussel sprouts get cooked in a hot pan with a little bacon and fresh rosemary. Tossed together with pasta, the brightness of fresh lemon juice and a dash of salty rich parmesan cheese come together for a dish I can guarantee you will come back to over and over again.

Sometimes I skip the pasta altogether and just eat the Brussel sprouts straight from the pan or as a side dish to some roast chicken or flank steak. Regardless, make this meal. It’s a great dish to play around with; offering lots of forgiveness for tweaking until you make it just how you like it. At my house, we add extra red pepper flakes and lots of lemon and parmesan.

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

·         Sea salt

·         8 ounces penne (about half a box of pasta)

·         2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

·         3 or 4 slices of center cut bacon, thinly sliced

·         1 large rosemary sprig

·         1 heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic (about 4 cloves, chopped finely)

·         Generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes

·         Freshly ground black pepper

·         8 ounces brussel sprouts, sliced thinly

·         2 teaspoons butter

·         ¼ cup water

·         Fresh squeeze of lemon

·         Parmesan cheese

Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until pasta is just al dente. Do not overcook…I repeat, DO NOT OVERCOOK. You are going to toss the pasta with the brussel sprouts in a hot pan and the noodles will continue to cook a bit.

Meanwhile, heat large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the bacon and rosemary, sautéing until the fat on the bacon starts to turn translucent and very lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper and sauté until garlic and bacon turn brown, an additional 3 minutes.

Add the brussel sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water to the pan, and sauté until sprouts just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Spread sprouts mixture in pan and press down to flatten. Let it sear for a minute, then stir it up and repeat. This helps brown the sprouts. Add the butter and squeeze half a lemon over the dish, sauté for another minute.

Drain penne and add to the pan with brussel sprouts. Cook an additional minute, tossing, until everything is well-mixed. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with parmesan cheese and extra lemon juice.