Thursday, June 5, 2014

pasta with brussels sprouts

I tend to think that people who abhor Brussels sprouts have either a). never actually tried them, or b). only had steamed Brussels sprouts. Or those people are just weird. For this dish, the sprouts are sliced in half and sauteed until brown and crispy around the edges, then combined with asparagus, pasta, and a lightly creamy sauce. Even if you've never liked Brussels sprouts, give it a try. If there's no way I could convince you to eat those things, you can substitute broccoli, broccoli rabe, extra asparagus, or leave them out altogether.

Pasta with Brussels sprouts in creamy sauce

1 pound farfalle, orrechiete, penne, or similar pasta (whole wheat pasta works well here)
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts (I usually use frozen ones, especially when they aren't in season; regular or baby sprouts will both work, but the regular are easier to work with)
1 bunch asparagus
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons butter
Juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish

Wash the Brussells sprouts and trim off any remaining stem. If using frozen sprouts, thaw in the microwave on high for one minute, stir, and repeat until thawed. Slice each sprout in half vertically. Wash the asparagus, snap off the ends, then slice stalks into three or so pieces each. Pat the sprouts and asparagus dry.

Start heating a large pot of water for cooking the pasta.

In a very large skillet with tall sides, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes, until bright green and just softened. Remove the asparagus to a large bowl. Return the skillet to the stove and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sprouts, cut side down, and cook for about 5 minutes, until browned and crispy on that side. With a pair of tongs, carefully flip each sprout and cook the other side for another 4-5 minutes. Add the sprouts to the bowl with the asparagus.

Return the large skillet to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter, then stir in the garlic.  After 1 minute, add the lemon juice and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the stock, thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat until the sauce is just simmering.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, and set a timer for the lowest end of the cooking time on the package.

When the pasta has about 2 minutes left, add the cream to the sauce and stir. When the pasta is done, drain it and reserve about a cup of the cooking water. (I find it easiest to turn off the heat, carefully dip a large glass measuring cup into the pot, and let that fill with water.) Add the Brussels sprouts and asparagus to the sauce, and stir to coat them. Add in half of the pasta, stir, and add as much of the remaining pasta as the sauce will coat. Stir in the reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce is nicely distributed. Top individual servings with grated cheese.

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