Pork and brussels sprouts are a match made in heaven. Especially when that pork is spicy Italian sausage and those brussels sprouts are slow roasted in the oven until crispy and brown, all of it tossed together with chewy orecchiette pasta, garlic, lemon, onion, creamy goat cheese and bright green basil. Simple, fresh and done in just 30 minutes — this weeknight-friendly meal is way better than any takeout.
Orecchiette — or little ears — are my all-time favorite pasta shape. Do you have a favorite? I bet you do! Isn’t it funny that, though most pastas are made from the same stuff — flour, water, eggs, salt — we tend to gravitate towards one or two shapes over all others. Though I’m quite sure I pronounce it a different way each time, I love orecchiette because they’re shaped like little bowls, perfect for holding all of the delicious sauces you could ever dream of. And they’re chewier than some other pastas, with just enough bite to stand up well to a heartier, meatier dish like this spicy sausage orecchiette with roasted brussels sprouts and goat cheese.
Say that recipe name 3 times fast… Super long name aside, this pasta is one of K’s and my favorites right now, and one of the few tomato sauce-less pasta recipes I’ve made. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good marinara! My sauce-less pasta love is a different kind of love, because each ingredient stands out so beautifully without being covered in tomato sauce.
I don’t cook much with ground meats for one main reason. Once the meat hits the hot pan, I hate breaking it up into small pieces — chasing it around the pan with my wooden spoon, finally catching a piece only to have it slip away from me unharmed while I inevitably burn a finger. I pretty much dread starting a recipe with ground meat because I know that this awkward thing is going to happen.
Is that weird? It’s probably weird. Do you experience this frustration? Any tips on how to break up ground meat in a slippery pan would be much appreciated!
This pasta is so worth all of that frustration, and maybe a few choice words muttered under my breath. The tangy, creamy goat cheese melts into the lemony, garlicky sauce, coating each little orecchiette, bringing everything together. My mouth is watering just thinking about it — I’ve eaten it several times over the last few days and can’t seem to get enough.
Curl up tonight with a bowl of this hearty, spicy, creamy pasta, a glass of wine and a really good book — that one that (if you’re like me) you’ve been meaning to finish for ever, but can’t seem to find the time. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 cups halved brussels sprouts
- ½ lb orecchiette pasta
- Salt for the pasta water (optional but recommended)
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pound spicy Italian sausage
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
- 4 oz plain goat cheese
- A few leaves of fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the brussels sprouts on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Toss to coat. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until browned and crispy.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in the orecchiette pasta and cook according to package instructions. Be sure to reserve ½ cup of the cooking water before draining.
- Once the water comes to a boil, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook on medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking up into small-ish bite size pieces. Cook until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the lemon juice and reserved pasta water, stirring to combine -- scraping up any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the pasta into the sausage mixture, tossing to coat. Break the goat cheese into small pieces, sprinkling over the pasta and tossing to combine.
- Top with fresh basil.