Okay, if I had called this what it really is many folks would probably would have flicked past it. Yes, this dish contains the much maligned Brussel Sprout - but I promise you that properly cooked these little baby vegetables are absolutely delicious. They make a fantastic addition to this quick and easy pasta dish, which in our house is known as Brussel Sprout and Pancetta Pasta.
The trouble with Brussel Sprouts is that most folks over cook them, making them soggy and bitter. First of all, do not, under any circumstances, make tiny crosses in the bottom with a knife. Although this is traditional, it makes the water soak up inside them, leaving them quite soggy. All you have to do is cut some of the bottom off the sprout, peel off a couple of the outer leaves and wash them thoroughly. Then Brussel sprouts need to be boiled for no more than 5 to 6 minutes in water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. And I promise you, cooked this way they are delicious. However that is not how you need to cook the Brussel Sprouts for this pasta dish. In fact, you stir fry them, turning them into gorgeous crunchy yumminess. Seriously. Trust me. They are so good for you, you really should try this.
All you need to serve four people is:
9 to 10 ounces of penne pasta
(whole wheat if possible or you can use gluten free pasta if you need to)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or bacon fat
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
a handful of mushrooms, sliced
about half a cup of chopped pancetta or 5 or 6 slices of bacon, finely chopped
1 cup of Brussel sprouts, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
4 to 5 tablespoons of your favourite pesto (I like basil with this one)
2 to 3 tablespoons of cream or crème fraîche
chopped tomatoes and dried parsley to garnish (optional)
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté until the onion begins to soften. Add the mushrooms and pancetta or bacon and the sliced Brussel sprouts. Stir fry for seven to eight minutes until the bacon is cooked. Stir in the pesto and the cream until everything is well blended together.
Drain the pasta and return it to its pan. Add the sauce and stir through. Serve garnished with the chopped tomato and parsley if desired. This is nice with warm rolls and/or a salad.