Penne with Pancetta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

by Andie Mitchell on November 1, 2010

I’m really not one for pasta. And not for any reason in particular. I just don’t crave it like I do, say, potatoes and bread. And potato bread.

But then, sometimes I’ll be thumbing through the glossy pages of a cookbook that I’ve received for review and I can’t help but stop squarely on spaghetti.  It’s as if my taste buds and the delicious picture receptors in my brain had been meandering down the street, casually glanced down, and spotted a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk. They know a good thing when they see it.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I go quite passionately where my taste buds lead me. A very valid reason why I can never quite cut ties with Burger King. Also why I’m buying shares in Dunkin’ Donuts as we speak. But that’s beside the point.

And so, on Saturday, as I drooled my way through the I Love Bacon cookbook, I got particularly worked up over a recipe for a pasta dish that married bacon, cream, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. There wasn’t even a photograph on the page; the words alone lured me.  I may or may not have blacked out. I consider myself lucky to have been reading about bacon in bed.

Inspired and hungry, this dish was born. It is deeply satisfying and rich, a blend of chewy penne, salty, crisped pancetta, and sweet roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Roasting the vegetables brings about such an intense, caramelized flavor. Adding a few glugs of cream at the end mediates the flavors and lays upon each ingredient like a sort of silk robe. And once I sprinkled a handful of crunchy, toasted walnuts over the pan, I was certain I wouldn’t live to write about it.

The beauty is the simple freshness of each ingredient, and the wholesome heft of them all combined. The thing about pasta dishes like this one, is that they often seem much more decadent and dense than they are. Since so many people have asked me recently to post the nutrition information for my recipes, I’ve come to realize that the meals you might cringe at while calculating, are not nearly as calorically hefty as they sound. Maybe that’s just one of the beautiful outcomes of recipes involving cream and pancetta, and the reality that a little goes a long way. I’d like to think so.

Penne with Pancetta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss your brussels sprouts and cauliflower with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the veggies on a large roasting pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until they have softened and browned. Let them get nice and dark; the longer you roast, the more caramelized and intense the flavor.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your pasta and let it cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of your cooking water. While the pasta is boiling, add your diced pancetta to a large frying pan set over medium heat. Saute the pancetta for about 10 minutes, until crisp and browned. Remove it to a plate, leaving two tablespoons of grease in the pan.

Return the pan to the burner, lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped onion. Stir occasionally and let the onions soften for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and stir constantly for 20 seconds.

Toss your roasted veggies in the pan, along with the pancetta, and a half cup of starchy water that your pasta was cooked in. Add the pasta. Stir in the cream and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, just until heated through and well combined.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes to thicken.

Garnish with the walnuts and fresh parsley. Serve.

Penne with Pancetta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 5

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts (1 pint), halved
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 oz diced pancetta or bacon (I used Citterio brand Pancetta, which I found at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, preferably penne or rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • parsley for garnish
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss your brussels sprouts and cauliflower with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the veggies on a large roasting pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until they have softened and browned.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your pasta and let it cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of your cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, add your diced pancetta to a large frying pan set over medium heat. Saute the pancetta for about 10 minutes, until crisp and browned. Remove it to a plate, leaving two tablespoons of grease in the pan.
  4. Return the pan to the burner, lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped onion. Stir occasionally and let the onions soften for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and stir constantly for 20 seconds.
  5. Toss your roasted veggies in the pan, along with the pancetta, and a half cup of starchy water that your pasta was cooked in. Add the drained pasta. Stir in the cream and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, just until heated through and well combined. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool and thicken for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. Garnish with the walnuts and fresh parsley. Serve.

 

Nutrition Information for 1/5th of the recipe:

Calories: 439.2, Total Fat: 21.5g, Cholesterol: 35.2mg, Sodium: 310mg, Total Carbohydrate: 48.4g, Fiber: 3.7g, Sugars: 0.9g, Protein: 15.7g

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy November 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

OH thank you for this.

I on the other hand go all gooey in the knees over anything pasta. potatoes…not always. haha

GOSH DARN I picked up pancetta this week at the store and put it back trying to be “necessity only” and frugal.

bad me…very bad.

got this one printed…I smell pasta for dinner~

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Shanna, like Banana November 1, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I go in streaks as far as craving pasta and it’s usually images that prompt me to make it tool. Dang advertisements!

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Megan (Braise The Roof) November 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I’m totally with you on the pasta thing- every once and a while I see a recipe that I HAVE to make, but it’s very rarely the thing I order out at an Italian restaurant. Unless we’re talking mac ‘n cheese. That’s a whole other story.

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Amy @ Second City Randomness November 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I’m down with you and Megan both- I don’t usually seek out pasta. I crave my carbs in bread form.

Besides, I like making it at home when I do want it. Especially with whole wheat pasta- I just like the texture more…

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eatingmachine November 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

pasta is always a lazy meal in my head-i only think to make it when i need dinner in 10 minutes or i’ll bite my arm off.
that said, yours looks yummy!

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Can You Stay for Dinner November 1, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Thank you! And you’re right- pasta is great for speediness!

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fittingbackin November 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm

this looks great – even though i’ve never had pancetta OR sprouts! I need to get out more!

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thecompletecookbook November 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Heavenly! Sadly my husband point blank refuses to eat brussel sprouts – so sad. I will have to enjoy this while he is still away on a business trip – cool, all the more for me. :-) Mandy

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Quay Po Cooks November 2, 2010 at 5:24 am

Ooo… got all my favorite things. I live on penne pasta when I was in Italy but I like penne will with lots of chilli! Fabulous step-by-step photos!

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Jaclyn (Ananda Prana) November 2, 2010 at 5:37 am

I love pasta and this dish looks amazing, so it just might be the perfect way to get me to eat brussel sprouts ;)

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman November 2, 2010 at 6:23 am

This looks great. I crave pasta, but my husband never does so I rarely eat it. Still, it has pancetta in it. I’m sure he’d be up for this.

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Fervent Foodie November 2, 2010 at 7:01 am

WOW this looks awesome!!! Maybe I can convince the BF to make it for me this weekend :)

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NikNik November 2, 2010 at 8:21 am

This looks delicious. Given the opportunity, my husband would eat pasta every night, and I’m more on the occasional side. Fortunately he loves brussel sprouts as do I, so this is going to be on our menu this week.

Once again you’ve enlivened out table, Andrea.

On another note, the Halloween cupcakes were a huge hit at the party I hosted on Sunday. The crowd agreed that more chocolate is always better.
Nikki

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janemaynard November 3, 2010 at 9:17 am

just wanted to let you know I featured this post on FoodPress.com today! looks mighty delicious. :) have a great day!

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Can You Stay for Dinner November 3, 2010 at 9:23 am

Thank you very much Jane! I love that FoodPress exists now, I’m thrilled to be featured!

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Jenna November 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

This looks SO AWESOME! I have never made brussel sprouts, but this makes me want to hit up the grocery store on the way home and make them immediately. Unfortunately, leftovers are on the menu tonight, but next week is wide open . . .

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Can You Stay for Dinner November 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Thanks Jenna! Brussels sprouts are absolutely my favorite vegetable, and the way they sweeten and become so rich after roasting is just perfect!

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Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday November 8, 2010 at 8:13 am

I pretty much ONLY like Brussels sprouts when they are roasted.

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❤田小姐❤ November 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Wow! I like them! ^O^

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Can You Stay for Dinner November 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Thank you!!

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Shiddat November 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

It’s mouth watering..great

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Amanda August 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

How much garlic? <3

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