Brussels sprouts didn’t make a regular appearance in my meals until quite recently.
At first, their bitterness was an unwanted one, but what I have found is that the key to balancing out these bitter little nuggets is to add something a tad sweet—like pears, for instance.
Combine that with a little bacon (or not) and a rich, eggy carbonara sauce, and you bring out the best in this shrunken cabbage. Its bitterness perfectly cuts through the richness of the pasta sauce, while the pear adds that wanted touch of sweetness.
You’ll be making your inner child shudder as you greedily go back for another perfect bite of pear, pasta—and of course Brussels sprouts!
Brussels Sprouts + Pear Carbonara
makes: 4 entrée portions
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound linguine
- 4 bacon strips, chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- ¼ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
- 2 pears, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
- Preheat the oven to 475°F. Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add the oil and 1 teaspoon of the salt; toss to coat. Spread the sprouts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the linguini. Place the Brussels sprouts in the oven and roast until they are tender and charred—for 20 to 25 minutes. As soon as the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package instructions; then drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the fat in the skillet. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and sauté until soft—about 5 minutes. Stir in the pasta and remove the skillet from the heat.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl. Slowly add ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the egg mixture, whisking as you go (you don’t want to cook the eggs, so add the hot water very slowly). Add the egg mixture to the pan with the pasta, stirring vigorously until well incorporated. Place the skillet over low heat and add the Parmesan and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, tossing to combine. Finally add the Brussels sprouts, pears, and bacon, stirring gently until mixed. Then gradually stir in as much as you need of the remaining ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to give the mixture a saucy consistency. Serve immediately, scattering scallions on each portion.
- For a completely vegetarian meal, simply leave out the bacon and sauté the shallots and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil instead.
- To make this dish for a mixed household (vegetarians and meat-eaters alike) sauté the bacon (1 piece per person) and set aside in the pan. Complete the recipe as written but sauté the shallots and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a second large skillet. Serve the pasta, adding some bacon and a drizzle of its fat to each meat-eater’s portion.
- For a sweeter taste overall, use the outer leaves of the Brussels sprout only and chop them small. They are less bitter than the center.
- As soon as the Brussels sprouts are out of the oven, sprinkle with a little Parmesan to make them look and taste a bit more appetizing for picky eaters. You can also cook them for only 15mintes to achieve less charred flavor.
- Sometimes dinners have to wait on the stove while everyone gathers: Keep extra pasta water on hand and add it as you need to keep the pasta nice and saucy. It will be ready when you are.