Recipe: Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts
Whomever dreamed up pasta carbonara was probably hankering for breakfast for dinner, as I often did when I was a kid. Once a week, my mom used to allow me and my siblings a voice as to what was on the dinner menu. For me, it was breakfast foods, and could be as breakfasty as pancakes and bacon. No one seemed to mind and to this day I still love whipping up a batch of pancakes at night as much as I do poached eggs on toast. Ergo, it makes sense that one of my favorite decadent pasta indulgences is carbonara. The combination of satiny egg yolks, smoky bacon or pancetta and heaps of Parmesan cheese is delicious squared.
So when I decided to skip the diet on Sunday night and eat the pasta, I thought about creating a guilt-freer (not entirely free) carbonara. My musings led me to thinking about the inclusion of brussels sprouts, which led me to the inclusion of lemon zest. I love these two ingredients together.
The end result was/is my new favorite version of carbonara. The brussels provided texture and flavor and the zest lightened up the dish so at the end of the meal I think we ate twice as much as we normally would/could. C’est la vie. Sometimes you gotta forget the diet and eat the pasta. Buon appetito!
A Brussely Pasta Carbonara
1 lb. linguini
4 eggs, room temperature (2 whole/2 egg yolks)
12 oz. thick-cut uncured bacon (Peter Luger is great)
1 cup shredded Parmesan, more for sprinkling
12 oz. brussels sprouts
Zest of one lemon
Fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Place individual strips of bacon on cookie sheet. Bake until cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. When cool enough to handle, chop bacon into small pieces. Set aside. Reserve bacon fat.
If bussels sprouts are large cut into quarters. If small, halve. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Blanche sprouts until tender (under ten minutes). Drain in a colander. Set aside.
Separate yolks from two eggs and whisk together with two whole eggs. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to directions. Err on the side of al dente. Drain in a colander and reserve 1 cup pasta water. When pasta is drained but still warm, drizzle bacon fat over and toss. (I like this step because it not only adds flavor, it keeps the pasta nice and satiny.)
Return to the pasta pot and immediately coat with the eggs. Toss well. Add bacon, brussels sprouts and zest, toss well. Add pepper to taste. Turn the heat on to low and warm the pasta for a few minutes — you don’t want the eggs to “cook.” If the pasta is too thick, add some of the pasta water. I usually use all of the water as it helps heat the pasta. Place the warmed pasta into a serving bowl and hit it with the Parmesan. Toss immediately. Serve right away with additional cheese on the side.
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