I make pasta all year long with whatever vegetables are in season, and if I don't have any vegetarians eating with me a little bacon or pancetta adds richness to the dish. Even though it takes time and is a bit finicky, I love to break apart the Brussels sprouts into individual leaves and flash sauté them in the pan. It makes a great quick pasta sauce, but they are also pretty good just on their own. A quarter cup of pitted black Gaeta olives is a nice addition to the pasta if you have them on hand.
Serves 4 to 6
• 500 grams pennette pasta (choose an artisan dried pasta such as Rustichella d'Abruzzo or Latini if you can)
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 or 5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into quarter-inch strips
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 2 pints Brussels sprouts (peel off all the leaves individually)
• leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like)
• ¼ cup grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano
• salt and pepper to taste
Render the bacon with the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat until just shy of being crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat up and add the Brussels sprout leaves and the minced garlic and stir briskly until the leaves are bright green and lightly wilted, about four to five minutes. Season with salt and a lot of black pepper (that's my taste). Turn off the heat. Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted water until done as per the package instructions. When drained, toss the pasta with the Brussels sprouts and bacon and all the rendered fat and olive oil from the pan. When tossed, add the cheese and toss again. Serve and eat immediately.
To read Sara's article about why she prefers dried pasta to fresh, click here.