Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Pasta

Q: What do you make for dinner the night before you go back to work after having a baby?

A: Anything you have in your fridge already, so you don’t disturb the good people at the grocery store with your heaving sobs. Oh, and pasta, because that always makes me feel better.

Somehow it’s October.  Four months have flown by and my baby is big enough to hold up his own head and smile and generally make my heart sing like those baby animals in Snow White.  Naturally, I’m feeling sad and anxious about going from spending all day, every day with him, to only the hours after dark.  More about that some other time, I guess.

Anyway, the night before I recommenced working outside the home, we still had to eat and I hadn’t been to the store in quite some time.  A perusal through the fridge revealed: half a lemon, half a container of chicken stock, a going-bad-very-quickly package of brussels sprouts, and some Parmesan cheese.  Bacon from the freezer and half a box of pasta and presto, dinner in about 30 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta

  • half box pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
  • about four slices bacon, chopped
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • a good amount crushed red pepper
  • 1 bag (or 1 branch, or however you buy your sprouts) brussels sprouts
  • olive oil or butter
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine, or just the starchy pasta water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil; cook your pasta according to directions and drain, reserving about a cup of the starchy water (if using).
  2. As your pasta cooks, prep your sprouts.  Chop off the tough end of each sprout and add to your food processor. Finely shred all your sprouts.
  3. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium heat and then add bacon.  Crisp it up a bit and then add garlic, taking care not to burn it.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and your crushed red peppers (note: if you like spice, add a fair amount.  The crushed red peppers get a bit lost among all the brussels sprouts).  Add a few sprigs thyme, as well.
  4. Add brussels sprouts to pan; spread them out evenly so the shreds start to crisp up underneath a little bit.  Don’t be afraid to add a bit of olive oil or butter at this stage!  After a while, stir the mixture up to let all the sprouts cook evenly.  Add a bit of white wine, stock, or some of the starchy pasta water to start creating a sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and give the whole thing a toss; add lemon juice and Parmesan & season to taste; serve hot.

The Verdict:

Make sure to carefully season your pasta throughout the cooking process.  I was a bit afraid to oversalt, given the bacon, so I had to make up for this at the end.  But this is delicious, and a big bonus is that it makes enough to take for lunch the next day, too.  The only remaining question: what do you make for dinner AFTER the day after you start working..and the day after that, and the day after that?

Answer: you marry into literally the best family ever and your MIL brings you a delicious lasagna.

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Side Dishing (and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Thai Garlic Sauce)

This may just be the newlywed talking in me, but getting married was pretty much the best thing ever.  Every time I think I’ve decided on the BEST part (like getting to spend my life with the Husband, for example), I remember another reason for which to be grateful.  Like the incredible outpouring of love from the amazing circle of women in my life – my mom, sister, mom-in-law, sister-in-law, longtime family friends that feel more like family, and the new group of family friends into which I already feel adopted.

At my bridal shower, I was presented with a book of (handwritten) recipes from all of these incredible women – from one of my mom’s best friend’s homemade chicken soup to my dad’s secret salad dressing to Mimi’s (that’s the Husband’s grandmother, and now mine, too) recipe for her own husband’s heart (as she also carefully notes – “date night? you have to be kidding!”)  The following recipe is from my sister (more details on her coming soon…).  We served them alongside a (store-bought) chicken pot pie (cleaning out that fridge in anticipation of another BEST part, our honeymoon!).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Thai Garlic Sauce

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, outer leaves peeled, chopped in half
  • 8-10 cloves garlic (whole, though I actually minced them up – can’t resist the garlic press!)
  • olive oil
  • For the sauce:
    • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
    • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 red Thai chili, thinly sliced, with seeds (didn’t have on hand, and used 1 big spoonful Sambal Oelek (Thai chili paste) instead!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Toss the halved brussels sprouts in a bowl with the garlic and enough olive oil to lightly coat all the pieces.  Mix it through and then spread out on a jelly roll pan.
  3. Bake until the outer leaves are crispy, about 25-35 minutes.  If the sprouts are small or you minced the garlic, like I did, make sure to check in on these bad boys on the early side – roasted garlic is delish, burnt garlic, not so much.
  4. While the sprouts are roasting, make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients and whisking through until the sugar dissolves.  Taste before serving – I added some fresh ground black pepper to balance out some of the saltiness.
  5. Toss the brussels sprouts with as much dressing as you like and serve immediately.
salty, garlic-y vegetables - my favorite!
salty, garlic-y vegetables – my favorite!

The Verdict:

These are delicious, though I’ll admit to tossing them with too much dressing, which made them a little “pungent” in the Husband’s words (to be fair, he’s also not a huge fan of fish sauce).  Once tossed with the dressing, these don’t reheat all that well (heated up the next day, these were a little mushy), so drizzle accordingly.  The combination of a little heat, salt, garlic and cilantro, though? Right up my alley.