Cavatappi with Brussels Sprouts, Sausage and Tomato

You will look long and hard to find an Italian pasta sauce with Brussels sprouts—I’m still looking—but that doesn’t disqualify them from the pasta realm in my estimation. They are really just little cabbages, so I treat them much as I would cabbage for a pasta sauce, slicing and braising them until tender with a little sausage, tomato, and cream. If you can’t find sausage with fennel, add some lightly crushed fennel seed to taste.  From Four Seasons Pasta by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books)

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound hot Italian sausage with fennel seed
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, in large dice
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound cavatappi, fusilli or farfalle
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts (I put them in a sieve so I can lift them out easily) and cook until they are tender when pierced, about 12 minutes. Lift them out of the boiling water and chill under cold running water. Halve them, then slice not too thin. Add a little more water to the pot and return to a boil.

Put the olive oil in a large skillet. Remove the sausage from its casing if necessary and add it to the skillet. Cook over moderately low heat, breaking up the sausage with a fork, until it has lost much of its pinkness. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two to release its fragrance. Add the tomatoes and cook briefly to soften, but don’t let them collapse into a sauce.

Add the Brussels sprouts, season with salt, and stir to blend. Stir in the cream. Reduce the heat to low.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over low heat. Add the sauce and toss well, moistening with some of the reserved pasta water as needed. Divide among warm bowls and serve immediately. Pass grated cheese for those who want it.

Serves 6