Pasta and Sproutses

I think pasta and Brussels sprouts are a great fall and winter combination. It’s not like I thought of it, but I’m enthusiastic about it.

My poor family. I think they are maybe less excited, especially when I serve it to them more than once in a week. But, we needed to compare.

The components of each of these meals are not identical, but they’re close enough to warrant comparison of two styles.

First, my usual way of serving the components. The sort-of constants are: white beans, whole wheat pasta, sprouts, Romano cheese. Extra items are: bacon, mushrooms.

Pasta is boiled, beans are simmered and served over top with a sprinkle of cheese. Veg is roasted and served on the side. Everyone in our house finds something about this meal to enjoy, and some even enjoy it in its entirety.

The next time, I did this casserole thing. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe. It’s not Nigella’s fault the correct size pan wouldn’t fit in my oven and I needed to use a smaller one, thus likely rendering the final product less roasty and delicious than hers. If Nigella made it for me, I bet it would taste better. She’s just better at cooking than I am, plus I love her, and you know how that is.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for us. Once again, the sort-of constants are: potatoes (which I equate with white beans), whole wheat pasta, sprouts, Romano cheese. Extra items are: Gruyère cheese, ricotta cheese, butter, and sage.

I loved the sage. I always forget how much I love fresh sage. Otherwise, this was quite the cheese bomb. I’m typing that thinking, “Mmm, cheese bomb,” but in practice it was not what I wanted to eat. It was just so, so much cheese. Also, the recipe took much longer to prep, cook, and clean up. The consensus of the family was my usual treatment of ingredients is better for us. I may do a little fried sage topping for the white bean thing, though. That woody, camphory scent is very evocative.

Very quickly, here’s how I make the usual meal: I roast veg simply just with oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and often some garlic powder and dehydrated onion. Normally I like it all significantly more charred than it appears in the first photo, but dinner was running late.

I do the beans by heating up bacon until it’s just this side of charred, then pour in 2 cans of white beans. The seasoning is: thyme (1 tsp), sage (1/2 tsp), lavender flowers (1/4 tsp), fennel seeds (1/4 tsp), crushed red pepper (start with 1/8 tsp), a smallish handful of dried parsley, and a bay leaf. Ground black pepper, some garlic powder, and dehydrated onion, too. Everything is to taste, really, but those last three ingredients are more to taste than others. Everyone has big feelings about garlic and onions and pepper, right? Simmer it until it’s thickened and the consistency you want to put on your pasta.

That’s not going to be the best or healthiest thing you’ve ever eaten, but it’s easy and pretty fast, and it tastes just fine. There are a lot of nights to fill with dinners; it’s nice to have something quick and simple to make with pantry ingredients in a pinch.

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By the way, I get my lavender flowers from Harney and Sons. Click here. Another way to use lavender flowers is as a tisane but also if you mix thyme (or tarragon), fennel seeds, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a couple lavender flowers, it’s a very good way to season a baked egg.