Pasta is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods, but I love it even more when I fill it with veggies and make it a full meal. This orecchiette is loaded with brussels sprouts and ground pork. I think the brussel sprouts sort of resemble the orecchiette, and make it so pretty. Sage gives it a note of fall comfort, while lemon brightens up the dish.
I am sorry to say that you have to dirty three pans to make this: a sheet pan to roast the sprouts, a pot to boil the pasta, and a skillet to brown the meat and combine everything. I tried cutting corners to make it easier for everybody, and it just wasn’t as good. Overcrowding the brussel sprouts with pork on a sheet pan made the sprouts not brown and crisp up as well. If dirty pans are your enemy you could brown the pork in the same pan you use for the pasta, but I prefer to have both working at the same time to get the dish made more quickly.
I made this a handful of times before I got it to be exactly what I wanted. It was missing something for the first couple of batches, and that something ended up being egg. It wasn’t until I had some leftover for breakfast one day and topped it with a fried egg that I decided to incorporate eggs in the sauce. The egg gives the sauce an extra silkiness and really ties it all together.
Orecchiette with Pork and Roasted Brussel Sprouts (Serves 4)
- 1 lb brussel sprouts, ends slightly trimmed and cut in half
- 2.5-3.5 oz olive oil, divided
- 1 lb ground pork (Or sub sage sausage and skip the sage)
- 1 shallot, finely chopped (about a 1/2 cup)
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped sage
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
- 8 oz orecchiette pasta
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 eggs, whisked
- kosher salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- chopped parsley to garnish
- Parmesan or similar cheese to garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450F. Toss the brussel sprouts with 1.5 ounces of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread out on a sheet pan with the flat sides down. Roast for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crispy.
- Heat up a skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil. Depending on how lean your pork is you may need to add two ounces of olive oil, but you can start with one ounce if you have fattier pork. If you are unsure start with one. Once olive oil is heated at your pork and break up and spread out so it can brown. Brown the meat. There should be a little extra excess fat in the pan. If there’s not, go ahead and add that additional ounce of oil.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Boil the pasta until al dente, and strain, reserving some of the pasta liquid.
- While the pasta is cooking add the shallots, garlic, sage and crushed red pepper to the browned meat, and turn down the heat to medium-low. Sweat the vegetables. Add the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and taste.
- Add the cooked pasta to the meat, and a little of the pasta water to make it saucy. Start with a half cup of the pasta water. Simmer briefly to tighten up the dish.
- Remove the pasta from the heat. Add a small piece of the meat or pasta to the eggs, while whisking with a fork. Then add a little more. Then add all of the egg to the pasta, and mix it in. Toss in some parsley and the lemon zest. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese if desired.
I wrote this recipe with pork, but it would also be great with ground turkey or even a meat substitute. You would definitely need all of the olive oil if you chose to go that route.