When I lived in Cairo, my Belgian roommate, Sara, met an Italian guy named Georgio. He had a slight speech impediment and he couldn't roll his R's, so when he introduced himself it sounded like "Jojo." He made us pasta and sauce one night, and he was talking about how he didn't understand how Americans eat pasta.
"In Italy, spaghetti carbonara is just eggs and bacon and cheese, but in America I order spaghetti carbonara and there is all kinds of other stuff in there!"
He said it in a good-natured way, not suggesting that the pasta was bad in America, just that it wasn't really spaghetti carbonara, and we should call it something else. Something all our own.
Well, Georgio, I'm sorry. I couldn't think of something all my own to call this. But just for you, I acknowledged that there is in fact a foreign ingredient in this spaghetti carbonara...
...and it is delicious.
My thought process went something like this: Brussels sprouts taste good cooked with bacon...I like to put cabbage in my lo mein...Brussels sprouts are basically baby cabbage...I could shred Brussels sprouts and put them in pasta...with bacon...spaghetti carbonara is made with bacon...I'll make spaghetti carbonara with Brussels sprouts!
A quick weeknight meal is born. Plus the Brussels sprouts make me feel less bad about eating a huge bowl of pasta tossed with bacon and eggs. And Nic and I both thought that we didn't really like Brussels sprouts, but when you shred them up (and saute them in bacon fat) they are actually very tasty. So give them shot. If nothing else, it is an excuse to eat bacon.
Spaghetti carbonara w/Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. spaghetti or other long pasta
2 tbs. olive oil
6 to 8 oz. (about 6 to 8 slices) of bacon (or pancetta)
20-25 Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
salt/fresh ground black pepper
-Put a large pot of water on to boil to cook the pasta.
-While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large saute pan (I used my cast iron skillet) over moderate heat with the olive oil.
-Dice the bacon into 1/2 inch cubes, and add to the skillet when it is hot, stirring occasionally until crispy and the fat is rendered.
-In the meantime, remove the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and any tough outer leaves, wash, and shred in a food processor (with a 2 mm blade) or with a sharp knife.
-Push the bacon to the side of the pan, and add the shredded Brussels sprouts, stirring occasionally. Let the Brussels sprouts sit in one spot long enough to brown slightly before stirring. The sproats should still be bright green but tender with just a few browned spots when done. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-In a bowl, beat the three eggs then add the 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese and stir until combined.
-When the spaghetti is done cooking, drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
-Immediately return the pasta to the pot and toss briskly with the egg and cheese mixture. Add the Brussel sproat and bacon mixture (with all the cooking fat that might be unabsorbed) and continue to toss until combined. If the pasta is dry, add a little bit of the cooking liquid and toss.
-Top with more grated cheese and black pepper to serve.