Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

I eat one brussels sprout a year.

At Christmas.

Under duress.

Brussels Sprouts

It’s a family rule, though it punishes only me — the sole holdout in a family of sprout fanatics. With enough gravy to dunk the sprout in, I can power through the yearly ordeal.

This year, however, no one seemed to notice that my plate remained sprout-free. But it made me think: was there a way I could learn to love my vegetable nemesis? The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, and it involves spaghetti and bacon’s Italian cousin.

Behold, Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta I

Once I made the decision to try this recipe out, I made a shopping list. Somehow sprouts failed to make it onto the scrap of paper: it seems my subconscious couldn’t believe I really did want them.

At the Italian deli where I bought my pancetta, I wasn’t paying enough attention either. I think the idea was to use a couple of thickish slices of the cured meat that could then be sliced into matchsticks. My slices were thinner than regular bacon, so I just chopped it into small pieces. Considering thinner slices meant better pancetta distribution, I didn’t really see a problem.


I also didn’t notice the clerk was slicing up “hot” pancetta. But I kind of liked the kick of heat to this dish. If you like a little spice and can find hot pancetta, I say go for it. Otherwise, if you still want some heat, you can probably add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

The original recipe suggests using the slicing blade of a food processor to thinly slice the sprouts. The photo on the web-site shows lovely green pieces of sprout. I ended up with vegetable confetti. If you’re looking for pretty, I’d suggest trying the mandoline route. Otherwise, the food processor is fine.

While waiting for the spaghetti to finish cooking, I took a test bite of the sprout mix and couldn’t stop myself from eating more. Sure, any vegetable cooked with pancetta, pasta and pine nuts is probably going to be fantastic, but I really did enjoy the flavour of the sprouts.

Sauteed sprouts and pancetta

A quick saute with garlic and shallots, rounded out with just salt and pepper, brought a nice simplicity to the dish. And because the sprouts don’t cook for long, they were tender, not mushy.

Perhaps this is the start of a whole new, sprout-loving me.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta II

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta IV

Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

From The Kitchn

  • 1 lb (500 g) brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 6oz (170g)pancetta, diced or cut into strips
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chicken broth
  • 1/2lb (250g)spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and remove the toughest outer leaves. Shred them in a food processor, using the slicing attachment, or slice them carefully on a mandoline or as thinly as possible with a knife.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, until fairly crispy and cooked through. Clear some space in the middle of the pan and add the shallots. (If you don’t have enough room in your pan to create space, you can remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add it back in when you add the sprouts.) Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute or so.

While the shallots are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the brussels sprouts and the chicken broth to the large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and toss all of the ingredients together. (Go easy on the salt initially because pancetta can be quite salty.) Cook, tossing occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the skillet. You can add a splash of the pasta water (or more broth) if the mixture seems dry. Add pine nuts, toss everything together, season to taste and serve. Serves 3 to 4.

  16 comments for “Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

  1. March 9, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Brilliant! Looks lovely.

  2. Mark
    March 9, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    looks so delicious. I’m full but hungry now.

    • Sandi
      March 9, 2010 at 9:25 pm

      Looks wonderful! I wonder if I could get my sprout hating spouse to eat it? I like quartered sprouts sauteed in garlic butter (with a touch of oil to keep it from burning) until the start to get golden crispy around the edges.

  3. March 10, 2010 at 6:18 am

    so glad you found a recipe that made you see the light. sprouts are my favorite veggie, to the point where i can pop them in my mouth like candy and have a dinner of nothing but. this looks wonderful. too bad i stopped eating meat. the only thing i really miss is cured pork products…..

  4. March 10, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Ahh, something new to do with my sprouts! I finally learned to like them, but only after the olive oil & parmesan baking of them (try it!) w/a dash of pepper flakes. I can’t wait to try this one! Yum!

  5. March 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I LOVE brussels sprouts! This looks fantastic and I’ll have to try it, because I usually just roast them and eat them plain.

  6. March 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    nom! and i thought i was out of ways to trick my boyfriend into liking sprouts. and now there’s this! hooray!

    til now my favorite way to fix sprouts had been the baking/parmesan route too.. (trimmed, halved, & tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, & minced garlic, then roast 400 degs) (and then sprinkled with parmesan and crushed brazil nuts after browned in oven). fixed that way, i could eat them like candy / for my whole meal.

  7. March 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    your photos are beautiful.

  8. March 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I saw your article in the Herald a while back and thought, “Yay! Another convert!” Thanks for sharing the recipe with the blogosphere :)

  9. selina
    April 12, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    hey gwendolyn, what italian deli did you purchase your pancetta at?


    • patentandthepantry
      April 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Lina’s on Centre St. North. Some very nice deli items, as well as hard-to-find Italian ingredients.

  10. Jessica
    April 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Yum! I have all these ingredients! Going to make it tonight . . .

  11. September 15, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I don’t care if all my friends make fun of me for eating Brussels Sprouts – this looks so good :)

  12. Steve
    January 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Hey Gwen,
    Elizabeth and I made this for friends one night while she was over here in Oz for Christmas. Everyone loved it, even Elizabeth the brussels sprouts hater! Great recipe, I’m going to use it again this weekend.


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