Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Pancetta and Lemon is an easy, flavor-packed dish ready in less than 30 minutes. Angel hair pasta, Brussels sprouts, and pancetta are tossed in a lemon butter sauce for a delicious weeknight meal.
Why you will love this recipe
Brussels sprouts and pancetta (or bacon) are a match made in heaven. The pancetta drippings lend a salty bite to the sprouts. The pasta soaks up the delicious lemon butter sauce, and Pecorino Romano adds a nutty flavor that pairs well with the rest of the ingredients.
This pasta comes together easily with three main ingredients - Brussels, pancetta, and pasta. A simple sauce of lemon, butter, and Pecorino Romano rounds out the flavors in this dish.
What are Brussels Sprouts?
Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages. They have a light to dark green exterior. Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk and are sometimes sold on the stalk. More commonly, Brussels sprouts are taken off of the stalk and packaged loosely in bags or cartons. They are readily available year-round and can be found in the produce section of your local supermarket.
How to prepare Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are delicious when prepared correctly. They have the best flavor when roasted or sauteed. Steaming or boiling sprouts leaves them bitter and limp. Roasting the sprouts caramelizes them and brings out their natural sweetness. Sauteeing also provides caramelization and brings out the nutty flavor of the sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are typically either cut in half or sliced before cooking. Before sauteing, slice the sprouts thinly so every bite of pasta has nutty sprouts mixed in. For roasted Brussels sprouts, cut them in half and stir once during cooking so they caramelize on both sides.
Tips for making
Use the pancetta drippings to saute the Brussels sprouts. Pancetta - also known as Italian bacon - is salt-cured pork belly. The rendered drippings are simply too good to waste. The salty bite of the pancetta infuses the sprouts with tremendous flavor. The sprouts get slightly toasty brown and have a nutty flavor.
Salt the pasta water. Cooking the pasta in well-salted water is key to flavoring the pasta itself. Add 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the pasta water before cooking.
Reserve some of the starchy pasta water. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1-1 ½ cups of pasta water for the sauce. The starchy water helps to brings the sauce together.
Use freshly grated cheese. It's always best to use cheese that you have grated yourself. Pre-shredded (grated) cheese has additives to prevent the cheese from clumping together. These additives also prevent the cheese from melting together smoothly. Freshly grated cheese melts smoothly and incorporates well into sauces.
Toss the pasta with a light lemon butter sauce. This simple sauce - butter, lemon, and pasta water - is full of bright flavor and pairs perfectly with the sprouts and pasta. Pecorino Romano cheese adds another nutty, salty note.
Reserve the loose outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts. When trimming the sprouts, some of the outer leaves will fall off. I like to reserve these to use as a garnish when serving the pasta. They add great color!
Storing and reheating
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. This pasta reheats very well in the microwave.
This dish is quick and easy to prepare which makes it perfect for weeknight meals. If you try this recipe, please leave a comment and rating below.
More Brussels sprouts recipes
- Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad
- Roasted Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts
- Bacon-Wrapped Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad
- Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and Sage Brown Butter
- Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta Pizza
Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Pancetta and Lemon
- 12 ounces Brussels sprouts
- 12 ounces angel hair pasta
- 4 ounces pancetta diced
- 5 tablespoon butter divided
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano plus extra for serving
- To prepare the Brussels sprouts, trim off the stem end. (Reserve the outer leaves that fall off). Slice the sprouts in half lengthwise and then into thin slices. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 - 1 ½ cups of the pasta water.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium heat, add the diced pancetta and cook until brown and crisp, approx. 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain the excess grease from the pan, leaving 1 tablespoon in the pan.
- Add one tablespoon of butter to the pancetta drippings. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until slightly browned and softened, approx. 5 minutes. Season with pepper. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a plate and set aside.
- To the skillet, add 4 tablespoons butter, the juice and zest of the lemon, and ½ cup of pasta water. Add the drained pasta, sprouts, and pancetta. Toss to combine. Add the grated cheese and toss to coat, adding enough pasta water to create a sauce. Garnish with reserved Brussels sprout leaves and extra cheese.
Author's note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated.