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Friday, December 2, 2011

My Husband's Favorite Pasta

This is a fantastic dish for any night.  It is simple enough to make on a week night, it can utilize leftovers in several ways, but its flavors are complex and rich enough for serving to guests and TRUST ME, they will be blown away! My husband calls this recipe the "Best Pasta Ever" and consequently, that's what it is labeled as in my digital recipe box.  I have served this to guests and family alike and everyone is mad about it.  Even those who aren't big on brussel sprouts.  They add a whole new dimension to this dish, and served steamed and then pan-seared, they are SO much less bitter than people are used to them being.  They take on the flavor of the bacon and bring a smoky, slightly sweet flavor, as well as helping add tot he substance.  I know I hate a dish that is nothing but noodles and sauce, and the additions of the veggies makes this something special.

Don't be intimidated by this recipe.  It uses refrigerated pre-prepared pasta and sauce in a jar.  There may seem to be a lot of ingredients, but it is SO worth it and, as i said, leftovers can be used to make this easier (ie: brussel sporouts and bacon, even sauteed mushrooms). 

A side note about herbs though:
If you don't have a windowsill herb garden, a back porch herb garden, or an "its in the spare bedroom because we have nowhere else to put it" herb garden, try to make one.  There is no substitute for fresh herbs, cut off the plant by your own two hands.  Even if you have a store nearby that sells snippets of fresh herbs for use in cooking, I'm here to tell you, the flavors are diminished by all that sitting in the fridge they have done.  Fresh are the HANDS DOWN best.  But be careful if you're used to using dried or pre-ground herbs. They are more potent and powerful.  Especially two used in this recipe, rosemary and nutmeg.  When i say a 'dash' of nutmeg, that's exactly what i mean, just one little pinchy dashy bit.  Be careful with nutmeg in savory dishes, it can be an amazing flavor-enhancer and deepener, but it can ruin a dish in a heartbeat if you overdo it.  That said, don't shy away from these things! They can add a whole new level of complexity and yumminess to your cooking! But if you're unsure, then taste, taste, taste.  Unless you work in a professional setting with food, nobody is going to blame you for dipping the spoon in from time to time to check your progress.  Always err on the side of too little spice, you can always add more, but can never add less.
Ok! caveats aside, let's get to the recipe.  Without further ado, I present:

Best Pasta EVER

½ sweet yellow onion, cut into thin slices
1 tomato, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced or run through garlic press
½ bag fresh Brussels sprouts
1 box(?) mushrooms (you know those little blue Styrofoam things you get at the store? is it called a box? a container, a crate?) thinly sliced
1 jar any white pasta sauce (alfredo works great) (or homemade if you can manage)
6 slices of bacon
1 pkg prepared stuffed pasta (I used Buitoni chicken and prosciutto tortellini, the kind you find near the butter in the refrigerated section of the grocery. But frozen or dried would also work fine.)
Fresh Sage
Black pepper
Fresh Rosemary

Hint: The first two steps can be done ahead of time or can utilize leftovers!!

1.       1.   Steam Brussels until JUST tender and bright green, do not over cook. Run under cold water for 1 minute when finished to stop cooking process. Cut in half lengthwise.
2.       2.   Cook bacon in skillet until crisp, do not burn!! Drain on paper towels. Pour off most of grease, leaving enough to coat skillet bottom.
3.       3.   Start water boiling for pasta.
4.       4.   Add onion and Brussels, cut side down to greased skillet. Cook on high for 3 min or so, until sprouts being to brown.
5.       5.   Add mushrooms, garlic, a good shake of pepper, and bacon, cut or crumbled into large pieces. Decrease heat to medium and allow this to cook for a few minutes, until mushrooms begin to color and garlic becomes very fragrant. Add cut tomato to pan. It is important to add the tomato last, or you will end up with little limp red things that in no way resemble tomatoes.  I like my tomatoes to retain a little tooth instead of dissolving into mush.
6.       6.   Add pasta to water and cook according to package instructions.
7.       7.   During last few minutes of pasta cook time, add white sauce to skillet of veggies and bacon, stir well, add a good size pinch of fresh or rubbed sage (probably about ¾ tsp) , rosemary, and just a dash of nutmeg. Stir through to warm all sauce.
8.       8.   Drain pasta well and serve sauce over pasta with garlic bread or bread sticks or baguette (ooooo baguette *drool*).

Serves two very hungry people.
Appx. prep time: 30 min.

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