With roughly equal parts pasta and Brussels sprouts, is this a pasta dish with Brussels sprouts, or Brussels sprouts with pasta? Or since nutty browned butter is involved, do these questions even matter?
Whatever you call this dish, just know that it's simple to prepare and really, really good. I love the fact that it's a square meal since it's chock-full of vegetables, which on a given weeknight when I'm rushing to make dinner, I truly appreciate. I'm not entirely sure what inspired me to try this particular combination of ingredients, other than the fact that I'm a longtime fan of pairing pasta and Brussels sprouts, especially when the sprouts are cut so thinly that they get all twisted and tangled with the pasta. What I didn't expect, however, is how much I like this duo when tossed in browned butter. And how already-magical browned butter gets more glorious still when joined by black sesame seeds, which get all nutty and fragrant when toasted. Trust me, this nutty-buttery duo is reason enough to make this for dinner tonight.
A few notes:
--I call for 3/4 pound of pasta to 1 pound of Brussels sprouts. I've tried different ratios, and this is the one I like best. That said, if you'd prefer to use a whole 1-pound box of pasta, by all means go for it. The dish won't suffer at all.
--To make easy work of shaving a pile of Brussels sprouts, use the slicing blade of a food processor. But if you don't have one, just use a sharp knife, or even a mandoline (just watch those fingers!). Or easier still, grab one of those bags of washed, shaved Brussels sprouts from the grocery. There's absolutely no shame in that!
--I love adding a good splash of lemon juice at the end to really brighten up all of the flavors and cut through the richness of the browned butter. But it's hard to say how much you'll want or need. So start with a teaspoon, and go from there until the flavors really sing to you. —EmilyC
kosher salt, plus more to taste
of your favorite pasta (such as long fusilli noodles or orecchiette)
butter (salted or unsalted)
Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced (see note above)
black sesame seeds
crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
finely grated lemon zest + 1 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste
freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and pasta; cook until al dente according to package directions. (Note that you'll reserve the pasta water; see step 3.)
Meanwhile, in a large skillet (one big enough to hold the cooked pasta), melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and smells nutty, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom so they don't burn. Add the Brussels sprouts, black sesame seeds, and chile flakes, tossing well to evenly coat with the brown butter. Season with salt and sauté until the leaves are just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon zest and toss again.
Using tongs or a pasta ladle, transfer the pasta directly into the skillet and toss with the Brussels sprouts mixture. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and some of the pasta water to loosen the sauce (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup, or as needed), tossing well to evenly coat the pasta. Add the Parmesan and toss again.