Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts


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Orecchiette on a white plate

Dishes like Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts are made for busy weeknights.  Get some pasta boiling, crisp up bacon, caramelize brussels sprouts and toss it all in tangy cheese.  It comes together in 35 minutes flat and tastes like the comfort food answer to a chilly winter night.

Orecchiette on a white plate

Did you finish off all the turkey?  I had a final bowl of turkey soup two nights ago and with that last spoonful I felt like I had savored the holiday to the absolute fullest.

We spent Thanksgiving with Frank’s family in Norfolk, Virginia where we ate all the delicious food, Frank carved the turkey, and Molly and Clara had their first taste of povitica (love at first bite).  We had loads of holiday fun and visited some of our Norfolk favorites including Toast which was as dreamy as ever and Cafe Stella which was equally delicious (and the coffee extra strong).

We even hit a few new spots but learned the hard way that it pays to call ahead to request not one, but two high chairs (#twinparentproblems).  It’s shocking how many restaurants only have one.

Smith Family Thanksgiving 2015

With one festive holiday behind us and the next just around the corner, it’s nice to be back in the kitchen, cooking our usual fast dinners.

And since this is my latest favorite, I’m just going to go ahead and get all up close and personal with it.  I don’t want you to miss all that fresh, pan-seared brussels sprouts goodness.

Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts in a cast iron skillet

It’s too bad that brussels sprouts got such a bad rap for so many years.  They really are delicious and so versatile.  We have been doing quite a few fresh shredded brussels sprouts salads this fall, but pan searing them is my new favorite.

(Trader Joe’s even sells pre-shredded brussels sprouts which have gone into the regular rotation here.)

The magic of this really simple dish comes from caramelizing those shredded brussels sprouts in a bit of bacon grease.  To do it, you need the pan to be super hot.  Searing brussels sprouts in a super hot pan cooks them fast but also cooks out any bitterness.

They turn all sweet and almost creamy.

Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts on a white plate

Tossed with fresh grated parmesan cheese, this is one of those dishes you’re happy to find leftovers of the next day.

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Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

A weeknight-friendly dinner with caramelized shredded brussels sprouts, crisp bacon and cheese in a light creamy sauce.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4


  • Stockpot
  • Large Skillet


  • 4 slices Bacon, preferably thick-cut
  • 8 oz Orecchiette Pasta
  • 3 cups shredded Brussels Sprouts (about 12 oz)
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 oz fresh grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
  • Zest from 1/2 Lemon


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. (IMPORTANT: Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Do this while the pasta is still boiling, or you'll forget. I always forget.)
  • In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp on both sides. Set it on paper towels to cool and drain all but about 1 Tablespoon of bacon grease out of the pan.
  • Return the skillet to the burner and put it over medium-high heat. When the pan is quite hot, add the shredded brussels sprouts and saute until they are turning golden brown in spots and tender, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan. When it melts add the pasta, reserved pasta water and half the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and cook just until a light sauce forms and coats the pasta. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the pasta from the heat and top with the lemon zest, reserved half of parmesan cheese. Crumble the bacon over the top to finish.


Calories: 478kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 624mg | Potassium: 463mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 838IU | Vitamin C: 56mg | Calcium: 356mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $6.00
Calories: 478
Keyword: bacon, easy dinner, easy pasta dinner, easy, weeknight-friendly
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We celebrated an early Christmas in Virginia this week and Molly and Clara loved the heck out of it. Particularly when a talking, moving Elmo emerged from one of the gift bags – a mega hit of a gift from their Aunt Ellen!Molly and Clara_Early Xmas 2015

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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. Such a perfect seasonal dish Jess! We too can’t get enough Brussels Sprouts. Love, love seeing Molly and Clara in holiday action. Such gorgeous little gals!