Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage
I am craving some cozy comfort and additional heat. My immediate options are to curl up wrapped in a blanket and read a sultry book, or I could build a fire in the fireplace and enjoy a nice cocktail with my husband. However, dinner is pressing and although I have been known to get passionate, no one can be comforting when they are hungry. A steamy pasta dinner comes to mind. Eating pasta is always comforting, and the heat can easily be added. Putting all my available ingredients together, I can create a pasta dinner with Brussels sprouts and sausage. A plateful of comfort and spice, all bathed in olive oil, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.
What I love about cooking with pasta is the ability to immediately create a meal with absolutely anything. If all you have in your pantry is a box of pasta and a can of tuna, a delicious dinner is at your fingertips. A no fuss, use what is available, pasta dinner. This recipe is an example of just that. I created a pasta dinner with spicy Brussels sprouts and sausage because, Brussels sprouts and sausage were my only options for dinner.
Our cupboards are not usually so sparse. We have all had those moments of staring blankly into the refrigerator or pantry, wondering what to make for dinner. Pizza delivery can often win out on such occasions.
I have to admit that for the past 33 years there has always been at least one box of pasta in my pantry. A box of pasta has saved the day more times than I can remember. With three sons who were all swimmers, a box of pasta always ready and available in my pantry, was an absolute necessity. These boys were always hungry. If I had pasta, additional vegetables, some protein, or a can of beans, I could squelch their hunger pains with a satisfying pasta dinner in 30 minutes.
I used to despise Brussels sprouts. They smelled bad, and in my opinion had a rancid flavor. Fortunately, my attitude was surprisingly altered. A few years ago, I tasted Brussels sprouts at a holiday dinner. The Brussels sprouts were bright green with a surprising sweet flavor and I had never tasted them like that before. Since that time, I turned into a devout fan. I realized that up until that point the Brussels sprouts I was familiar with were not properly cooked. In fact, they were overcooked. Unfortunately, this happened frequently to all the prepared vegetables of my youth, and I find it amazing that I have overcome my childhood disdain for them. If the Brussels sprouts are cooked properly, they will appeal to everyone.
Now a warm blanket of a delicious pasta dinner has enveloped me. The comfort of being with my family surrounds me, and my craving pangs are subdued. However, the idea of building a fire in the fireplace and enjoying a cocktail would be an added bonus. Reading a sultry book not a bad idea either. Enjoy!
Easy Substitutes for Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage
Substitute the Brussels sprouts with 1 head of broccoli or cauliflower. Cut the vegetables up into bite size pieces. You can blanch the broccoli in the pasta water before you cook the pasta, then add them to the sausage in the skillet. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli.
Substitute the sausage with 6-8 oz of diced pancetta or chopped bacon. Cook them until nicely browned.
Instead of pork sausage use chicken or turkey sausage. Depending on how they are prepared, keep the chicken sausage in its casings and slice them into bite size pieces on the diagonal.
For a lighter meal, replace the sausage with 6 anchovies filets. Add the anchovies with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir the anchovies so they dissolve into the olive oil.
For a vegetarian option add walnuts or pine nuts to replace the sausage. Toast the nuts, then add them when you add the pasta.
Add some extra sweetness by adding a handful of golden raisins. They are a perfect pair with the Brussels sprouts and pine nuts.
Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage
- 1 lb box favorite pasta such as campanelle, penne, or farfalle
- 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb sweet sausage* casing removed
- 3 cloves of garlic green germ removed and minced
- ½ tea red pepper flakes
- ½ tea crushed fennel optional depending on type of sausage
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
- Zest of 1//2 a lemon
- Small handful of parsley chopped
- Fresh Fennel fronds minced optional
- 1 Tb butter
- About ¼ cup reserved pasta water
- Grated Romano Cheese for serving
Trim off the ends of each Brussels sprout, remove any discolored or loose leaves, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
Fill a stock pot with water. Turn heat to high and boil water.
Place a 10 – 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn it on to medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot and shiny, add the sausage. Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink and completely cooked through. Use a wooden spoon, or fork, to stir the sausage and break it into crumbly chunks. When just cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon. Set the sausage aside on a plate, or in a bowl.
Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the back of the box, making sure the pasta is al dente when finished. Frequently stir the pasta to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
Turn the heat back on and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and crushed fennel. Cook briefly until you begin to smell the garlic then add the Brussels sprouts and ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir to mix the Brussels sprouts with the garlic and red pepper flakes, then allow the Brussels sprouts to cook through and get golden brown on the sides. Add extra olive oil if the pan if it is dry.
Add the vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water to the pan then stir to combine. Cover the skillet with a fitted lid, and cook the Brussels sprouts until they become soft but still bright green, about 4 minutes.
Uncover the pot and turn off the heat if the pasta is not ready.
Once the pasta is done, collect about ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta back into the stock pot then add the sausage and Brussels sprouts. Stir to evenly combine then add the parsley, lemon zest, fresh fennel fronds if using, about 3 Tb of pasta water, and butter. Gently stir to combine.
Serve immediately while hot with grated Romano or Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
A lot of stores and brands make their own sweet or spicy Italian sausage. I have not discovered one that I really like. The sausage is usually seasoned with an herb or spice, or other ingredient that dominates the flavor. usually that added ingredient does not go well with what I am making. Often black pepper is overwhelming and I find it to be very bitter. Thus, I usually do not buy the store brand. I have had consistent results with Premio Brand, Sweet Luganiga Sausage, or their breakfast sausage. It is available at most supermarkets in my area. A breakfast style sausage, not Jimmy Dean, is another option. If you have a favorite sausage that you prefer, please use it. However, I recommend to taste and adjust the seasoning throughout the cooking process.
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