The other day I was chatting with a neighbor and I discovered that we have a few things in common. We’re both enthusiastic home cooks, we both have lots of kids, and we share the conviction that parents who claim that their kids eat everything are lying. Right? Right?
Tonight my four year old actually claimed to be scared of the few Brussels sprouts threads that made their way into her dish. “I’m scared of this one!” she exclaimed dramatically, fishing out a microscopic green strand. “And this one!”
To be fair, I understand that many children—and some adults—live in fear of Brussels sprouts. J claims that he choked them down as a child only by burying them in a pile of Parmesan cheese so deep that they were completely obscured. Others claim to be genetically disinclined.
Fear no more. Find firm, bright-green Brussels sprouts for this dish and you’ll find them sweet and tender-crisp. They’re shredded so finely that they tangle into your dish of pasta quite agreeably.
This meal has been a family favorite for a long time, so I can vouch for many variations. Tonight we used whole wheat pasta and anointed the finished dish with a drizzle of olive oil and finely ground black pepper. For a richer dish, you can cook the sprouts in butter, use fresh egg pasta, and finish the dish with a flurry of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. You can even toss your pasta with roasted Brussels sprouts and toasted pine nuts—if you can keep yourself from eating the roasted Brussels sprouts straight from the pan.But if your kids gobble this down, I want to hear about it. We served bowls of cheesy whole-wheat spaghetti to our girls tonight, and kept the good stuff to ourselves. That’s real life when it comes to feeding kids, at least around here.
Pasta with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts (adapted from Gourmet): Boil half a pound of pasta in salted water. I like fresh or dried linguine or whole-wheat spaghetti. While the water is coming to a boil, trim and finely shred a pound of Brussels sprouts (I use the 2mm blade on my food processor).
While the pasta is cooking, heat 2-4 Tbsp. olive oil (or a combination of olive oil and butter) in a wide pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 c. pine nuts and stir constantly for a minute or two, until golden. Add shredded Brussels sprouts to the pan with 1/2 tsp. salt and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper and saute until crisp-tender and browned in spots (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and add the drained pasta to the Brussels Sprouts. Use a tongs to mix well, adding some of the reserved cooking water and/or a splash of olive oil to make the pasta glisten. Add additional salt to taste if necessary. Serve garnished with any of the following: Parmesan cheese, olive oil, or additional black pepper.
p.s. Of course you can always cook Brussels sprouts this way, with or without the pine nuts, and serve a feathery pile of them alone as a side dish.