rotini pasta with brussels sprouts, bacon & cashews

I love brussels sprouts, but tend to forget about them.  They really just don't cross my mind very often... (except around the holidays, of course!)

Well, the other day I was in Trader Joe's and saw this beautiful bag of already washed, ready to go brussels sprouts.  I bought them, just because they looked so good... but I didn't really know what I would do with them.

I knew I wanted to do something with bacon and cashews, because I had seen a recipe with those two ingredients and it intrigued me.  But, I also knew I wanted to make it a meal, with some pasta and a nice, light and creamy sauce...

This dish is what came out of all those thoughts, and it turned out so good!  It will definitely be in our rotation of favorites!

You may wonder why this recipe only calls for a 1/2 pound of bacon, when we all know it usually comes in 1 pound packages?  How annoying, right?

Well, not exactly...  because in this house it is impossible for bacon to be cooked without a large portion of it being 'tasted' by all the sneaky fingers around!  :o)  So, my recipe calls for 1/2 pound to allow you to cook 1 pound and snack on half of it without feeling too guilty!

OK... maybe you will still feel guilty about eating a 1/2 pound of bacon, especially if no one else is to blame, but at least it won't ruin your recipe this way!  ;o)

Rotini Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon & Cashews Recipe

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces
(2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat)
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound short pasta (rotini or penne works great!), cooked al dente
1 cup lightly-salted cashews, toasted and chopped*

Place the bacon pieces in a cold, large skillet.  Turn the heat to medium, and brown them until they are crisp.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let it drain while you prepare the rest of the dish.

If there is too much grease in the pan, drain off some of it leaving about 2-3 tablespoons (along with all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan...  that's where all the flavor comes from!).

Sauté the onions in the reserved bacon grease until softened, stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally to scrape up the yummy brown bits off the pan!

Dump in the brussels sprouts and continue to stir and sauté until they are tender, seasoning with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

When the brussels sprouts are almost done (it's better to undercook them, as they will continue to cook in the hot pasta!), turn the heat to low and stir in the chicken stock and cream.  Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced a bit and coated all the brussels sprouts.

Toss in the cooked pasta, and just before serving add the bacon pieces and the cashews!

*To toast the cashews, preheat a dry skillet to about medium heat and put the cashews in the pan in a single layer.  Let them brown lightly, stirring once or twice, until they are toasted, being careful not to let them burn!  Remove them to a plate and set aside until you are ready for them.  (They can, of course, be chopped either before, or after, they are toasted...  it makes no difference!) 

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