Close to my sister’s apartment in the East Village is Motorino Pizza. It’s one of my favorite places to spend a cozy hour due in no small part to their brussels sprout pizza. It’s rich and delicious, garlicky and savory in a way that makes you groan with delight on your first bite.*
Since I can’t quite afford the luxury of a weekly pizza from Motorino, I’ve decided to make myself a variation in the form of pasta. I’ve made it twice in the past two weeks, once by cover of darkness on a weeknight when a quick dinner was in order, and again on a weekend with the intention of sharing it with you friends. I changed my method up the second time, and I’m beginning to think I might have been better off with the first attempt. I’ll explain both techniques and let you choose your own adventure. In either case, this is a terrifically easy and satisfying meal for winter nights.
Below is the “recipe”**, which is perhaps better classified as an “encouragement to experiment with something you’ll probably quite enjoy”:
3/4 lb pasta (James and I eat pasta like we’re prepping for a marathon, so feel free to adjust if 3/4 lb for two seems extreme).
12 (roughly) brussels sprouts
mozzarella cheese (or fior di latte if you’re not too lazy or too cold to walk the extra 10 blocks to the fancy cheese shop)
2 garlic cloves (or to taste)
red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt (to taste)
1. Start by peeling your brussels sprouts. You can chop them if you prefer, but I really like the thinness of the individual leaves. If your sprout has a particularly dense root, you can lop it off to help peel away the leaves. Once you get to the very tight layers in the center, you might decide chopping is the way to go. After you’ve disassembled your sprouts, give them a thorough rinse.
2. Here’s the adventure part: The first time I made this recipe, I roasted my disassembled leaves with sea salt and olive oil on a baking sheet in the oven. The thinnest leaves crisped right up, and after cooking them for about 10 minutes at 350 F, I did a quickie broil, watching carefully to be sure they didn’t all end up black. They were delicious. (I sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes together in a separate pan, stovetop). This time, to save myself a pan to wash, I roasted my sprouts on the stove in a large skillet with garlic and red pepper. I got a sear on some of the leaves, but the sprouts were less crispy than they were in the oven, and I think I overdid the garlic. You’ve been warned.
3. While your sprouts are cooking, boil your water and cook your pasta (I used penne) until it’s al dente. Again, to save myself a dish, I strained my pasta using the lid of my pot. Besides meaning that you don’t have to wash your colander this method has the added advantage of making it easy to save some of the pasta water. (If you use a colander, make sure you reserve at least a 1/2 cup).
4. Once your pasta is drained and your sprouts are crisped, add them all together (if you use the first method, make sure you’ve also sauteed some garlic with red pepper flakes and add those to the mixture, too). Next, add your cheese. I cut my mozzarella into small chunks and grated my pecornio, about a half cup of each. Bottom line: add as much or as little cheese as you want, but use your pasta water to help combine everything in to a delicious gooey mess.
*The original pizza includes smoked pancetta. Feel free to add it if that’s the sort of thing you enjoy…
**If you prefer a less talkative recipe, the New York Times published a variation, here (with pancetta).