What’s cooking today: Sedanini pasta with garden peas, Brussels sprouts and bacon
Please don’t turn away just because there are sprouts in it. They’re part of the whole story of the dish, and they have their place.
There’s a special kind of satisfaction to be had from picking a crop you’ve grown yourself and turning it into a meal. The plump, firm little peas popped out of their pods like freed budgerigars and were soon blanched and ready to become part of a pasta sauce.
But let’s talk about Brussels sprouts, which armies of people despise, for reasons that some of us cannot fathom. But maybe that’s because we have ways of cooking them that make them desirable? A Brussels sprout’s best friend is bacon, and a sprout should never be boiled or stewed until there’s no life left in it.
Do what I did with this dish: trim the ends off, cut them into little quarters; this after having first blanched them and refreshed them in iced water. Then, they simply get tossed into the pasta sauce with the similarly blanched peas and served quickly.
Sedanini are a short type of penne pasta that is ideal for catching something small such as a pea or a quarter of a Brussels sprout. It collects some of the sauce too, to pop into your mouth and savour. Sedanini means “little celery”, in the plural, though in English we don’t say “celeries”. But you can use any other penne style or small pasta such as spirali, farfalle or gnocchi (the shell type, not the potato dish).
This dish is typical of a “creamy” pasta sauce that doesn’t have any cream as such in it. The creaminess comes from adding some of the pasta water to the saucepan shortly before serving and letting it thicken for a few short minutes.
250 g sedanini pasta or other small pasta
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
200 g streaky bacon, diced
300 g Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 cup garden peas, shelled
1 Tbsp thyme leaves, picked
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 or 3 ladlesful of pasta water
A few gratings of nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to taste
Parmesan to grate over the pasta on the plate
Boil a kettle, put the peas in a small pot, pour boiled water on them to cover, and let them simmer gently on the stove for three minutes. Remove to a colander, drain, and put them in a bowl of iced water. Drain again.
Cut the root ends off the sprouts. Blanch them in boiling water for three minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water and drain again, then cut them neatly into quarters.
Sauté the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil with thyme leaves until softened, then add the bacon and cook for a minute or two. Add the blanched peas and Brussels sprouts, grate in a little nutmeg, and season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta in briskly boiling water. Spoon two ladles of pasta water (perhaps three) to the saucepan and cook gently for three minutes or so.
Add half a cup of grated Parmesan and stir it in. Serve with more Parmesan grated over. DM
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.
This dish is photographed in wares by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.