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Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

(Serves 4)
Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

8 ounces Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces penne pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve


Trim the rough end of the stems of the Brussels sprouts.  If the outer leaves are unappetizing, peel them off too.  With a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the sprouts vertically through the stem into thin slices.  Set the sprouts aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the pancetta.
Cook the pancetta for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add the butter, onions, and red pepper flakes to the skillet; saute for 1 minute.
Add the sliced Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the sprouts in the skillet and allow them to cook for 2 minutes without stirring.  Add the garlic and continue cooking until the sprouts are beginning to brown and caramelize a little.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

Add the pasta and pancetta to the skillet with the Brussels sprouts.
Add some or all of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and stir to combine the ingredients.  Allow to cook for 1 minute; check the seasoning.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with Parmesan cheese.
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Mixing vegetables with pancetta is a classic Italian combination.   In this quick and easy recipe the pancetta pairs beautifully with the Brussels sprouts which are lightly caramelized to mellow the flavor of the Brussels sprouts and creates a delicious sweet and salty combination. Slice the sprouts as thinly as you can with a sharp knife, mandoline, or the slicing blade of a food processor; the slices don't have to be perfectly even.  You can substitute bacon for the pancetta if you prefer.
Pancetta is a traditional Italian specialty, used in a similar manner to the way we use bacon. Beretta makes a particularly excellent Pancetta from first choice pork belly.
Brussels sprouts are members of the cabbage family and are  available almost year-round but the peak season is from September to mid-February.  Unlike any other cool-season crops, they grow spiraling up the stalk.
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