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Brussels Sprout Pasta

December 28, 2010

After spending a lovely Christmas with Patrick’s family in Washington DC, we came home on Sunday night exhausted and with the obligatory post-holiday cold. Not to mention over-satiated with holiday over-indulgence. Cookies. Pies. Candy. Stuffing. Gravy. Oh my. It was all so delicious, but I don’t know about you—I could really go for something light and simple right now…

This pasta is just that. There’s no holiday fanfare. No fireworks. It’s just fresh, light, and simple. And yummy. A nice counterpoint to all the holiday excess. The dish’s simplicity really sets off the flavor of the brussels sprouts (which I love), and gets nice balance from the pepper flakes (a little heat), the lemon (a little acid), and the onion (a little sweetness). Oh, and the breadcrumbs add a nice, crunchy texture. Plus, since most of the ingredients for this dish are pantry staples—and since it comes together quickly—it would also be an easy (and decidedly unfussy) week-night meal anytime of year. We certainly enjoyed it on the couch last night, while nursing our colds and watching a movie.


Adapted from Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Vegetables

Serves 4 as a main

Total time: about 30 minutes

16 oz. orrecchiette

1 lb. brussels sprouts

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 cup coarse breadcrumbs*


Crushed hot pepper flakes

Salt & pepper

Cut the stem off each brussels sprout. Remove the dirty, outer leaves and discard. Next, separate each sprout into leaves. I personally find it too difficult (not to mention time-consuming) to separate the sprout completely into leaves. Instead, I simply remove the outer leaves, which are easy to separate, and then thinly slice the center (see photo). You’ll end up with a nice mix of delicate leaves, and heartier, bite-sied pieces.

Make the breadcrumbs. Take a couple slices of rustic bread, tear into pieces, toss in the food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. Next, melt one tablespoon of butter in a small pan. Remove from heat, and stir in the breadcrumbs, along with a pinch of salt, until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated in the butter. Spread the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet, and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, tossing them once or twice with a spatula, until golden brown (see photo). Set aside.

Place a pot of salted water over high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a couple splashes of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, and cook until it softens and just starts to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and a splash of water (about one tablespoon) to the pan, along with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté until the brussels sprouts have just begun to wilt and turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Drain the pasta, and add to the pan with the onion and brussels sprouts. Toss everything together, and taste for seasonings—at this point you’ll probably want to add a little more salt, pepper, lemon, and/or red pepper flakes. Serve in bowls, topped with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and the breadcrumbs. Enjoy.

* Making your own breadcrumbs. I recall reading an article in the NY Times about a year or two ago, in which the author listed a number of items that are commonly store bought, but that you really should make at home instead. Breadcrumbs topped the list. I remember thinking, who takes the time to make their own breadcrumbs, when you can just buy them? Soon thereafter, I decided to make my own, because a recipe called for homemade breadcrumbs. And oh I learned the error of my ways. They truly are better than store-bought breadcrumbs. Much better. And incredibly easy to make. Every few weeks or so—whenever I have a leftover rustic loaf of bread (after say making croutons or crostini)—I slice up the leftover bread, remove the crusts, tear it into pieces, and throw it in the food processor. Pulse until you have coarse breadcrumbs. Divide into 1 cup servings, place in plastic bags, and freeze. Presto! Homemade breadcrumbs whenever you them.

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